Shop closures a ‘long-term issue’

The closure of high street shops is a long-term structural issue, rather than a short-term effect of the recession, says the Retail Think Tank (RTT).

According to the body, even in buoyant economic periods vacancy levels in traditional retail properties have remained high at around ten per cent, as people shop in increasingly fewer locations.

Mark Teale, RTT member, says: ‘The trend, which has been apparent for more than 40 years illustrates the mismatch – in unit size, location and accessibility terms, between much of the traditional shop property and modern retailing requirements.’

Phil McCabe, of the Forum of Private Business, says that the reason for high street closures is due to a combination of factors such as ‘government policies and overbearing supermarkets remaining unchecked.’

He adds: ‘There are some very draconian and restrictive measures when it comes to parking charges and waiting times, with the abolition of empty rate property relief and increasing rates and rents also causing a lot of small businesses to close.’

However, McCabe says there is hope for the future. ‘There are positive signs. In many places there are a lot of small businesses thriving because they can provide bespoke products that no one else can offer.’

Earlier this year credit reference agency Experian suggested that one in seven UK shops – some 135,000 units – will be vacant by Christmas 2009.