The Death of The High Street?

Retail Consortium calls for reform of business rate system

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Last month's closure of HMV in Ealing is more evidence that the number of empty shops in Britain is continuing to rise and there are warnings that some high streets will never return to their pre-recession days.

According to the latest figures from the Local Data Company (LDC), vacancy rates climbed from 12% at the end of 2009 to 14.5% at the end of 2010.

The report says that fundamental changes in the way we shop are taking place in the UK:

'' The very fact that 10 years ago the majority of a multiple retailer's stores were on a high street but now are migrating from the high street into shopping centres and out-of-town shopping parks begs the question of what will fill the high street of 2020 and beyond?"

The retail sector has been hit by the recession. Chains such as Woolworths, Zavvi and Borders have closed down and stores in many areas are left empty.

HMV recently closed in Ealing and is shutting 60 stores nationally , JJB Sports is trying to offload up to 95 shops as online sales take over.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation said: "Many high streets will never return to their pre-recession days and, given the structural nature of these changes, the challenge for local authorities is to work with businesses, including retailers and landlords, to sensibly manage this transition and to be creative in looking for new roles and uses for empty shops."

LDC's business development director, Matthew Hopkinson, said: "The sad reality is that the number of vacant shops is increasing, with certain areas of the country severely impacted and unlikely to recover.

'' These high streets will never revert back to what they once were and so the composition of our town centres needs to change to reflect modern shopping needs."


The British Retail Consortium agreed that the situation was worrying and is calling for a "retail-friendly" budget next month, placing the urgent reform of the business rate system at the top of its list of priorities. It said retailers were facing a 4.6% increase in business rates in April on top of the impact of the five-yearly revaluation last year.


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15th February 2011