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Exclusive: A third of vacant high street shops destined for new uses

One in three vacant shops on the UK’s high streets are facing a new future as hotels, gyms and restaurants, a new report into the state of the retail sector has concluded. 

Approximately 11% of the UK’s high street and neighbourhood retail space is currently vacant, according to Colliers International’s annual Midsummer Retailer Report. 

The report, which analyses rents and vacant retail units across the UK’s retail sector, also found that 33% of this empty space (30 million sq ft) has been vacant for two or more years. The research indicated that UK rents, excluding London, are now half of their 2008 levels, in real terms. 

These vacant units now face a new future that doesn’t involve retail said head of retail strategy, Matthew Thompson: ”The retail industry employs 3 million people – 10% of the population – and generates 5% of the country’s GDP, with almost £400bn of sales each year. It’s not enough to leave this space vacant with no way forward.

”We need to take a much broader approach to this problem to find a solution in which vacant space can be reimagined to realise new value, deliver interesting uses and reduce the mountain of empty space.”

The report notes that of BHS’s 160 stores, 80 are still vacant following the retailer’s fall into administration in 2016. In Stratford-upon-Avon however, the former BHS store site is being repurposed into a 170-room hotel.

Dan Simms, co-head of retail, added: ”It may be controversial, but we need to be realistic – this is not sustainable, for landlords and local communities alike. Space that has been empty for a period of time that is this prolonged will never, in all likelihood, have a retail use again. 

”Taking this into consideration and looking hard at the current state of the UK’s retail landscape, we believe that this trend will continue. The dilemma is how to reverse its crippling effects and ensure this space doesn’t stay vacant. The ‘obsolete core’ must be tackled.

”What’s encouraging is that the retail property market is already well underway in its response to this and there are repurposing projects taking place across the UK to help reduce, convert and, in some cases, remove this empty space entirely.”



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