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July 21, 2009    

BRC warns of rising vacant High Street stores

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by Kay Murchie

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is forecasting a bleak outlook for High Street shops after figures show that around 12% of town centre shops are currently empty.

The organisation said stores need to be unique with individual character being the key in order to survive the downturn.

A report by the BRC found that some town centres are recording empty property rates of 40% while empty premises are predicted to more than double from 7% at the start of the year.

The economic downturn has meant consumers have tightened their purse strings, having a devastating affect on trade. The iconic department store, Woolworths, collapsed under a mountain of debt at the end of last year, while other big names that went bust included furniture retailer MFI, music and games retailer, Zavvi, The Officer’s Club and Whittard of Chelsea.

However, overall, UK retail sales have not collapsed, as some had anticipated, but retailers being placed into administration are 109% higher compared to a year ago, according to figures from the Insolvency Service.

Commenting on the report, the BRC said: “It is clear that in many places, recession is accelerating a trend of decline that was already under way. The dangers associated with this deteriorating picture are clear.”

“Vacant units are perhaps one of the most visible impacts of the economic downturn. Shoppers who are unable to ignore increasingly visible vacant units in their local communities are likely to further reinforce falling consumer confidence,” added the organisation.

The BRC is exploring ways to prevent the ever-declining High Street and is calling for better transport links to make it easier for shoppers to get to struggling areas.

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