Nearly 40% of empty shops in Scotland’s top 100 cities and towns have remained unoccupied for more than three years, according to research by The Local Data Company and The Institute for Retail Studies.
The country’s average retail vacancy rate has fallen from 14.5% to 13.7%. East Kilbride has been shown to have the highest at 33%, while Inverurie has the lowest at 1%.
Five locations - Inverurie, Ellon, North Berwick, Dunbar and Biggar – have been able to maintain a rate of 6% or less for the last three years. However, Banff, Dumbarton, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Ardrossan have remained above 22% for the same period.
Anstruther, Clydebank, Dumfries, Inverkeithing, Lochgelly, Peterhead and Pitlochry are highlighted as the most consistent positive performers.
The findings concluded that independent retailing is critical to Scotland’s towns, making up 56% of total units. Anstruther is noted to have the highest number of independents at 86%, with Gretna at the other end of the scale with just 5%.
Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium David Lonsdale told Drapers: “Much more needs to be done to make it easier and less costly for retailers in Scotland to invest in new premises. Top priorities should be an overhaul of the business rates system, and a more flexible and less time-consuming approach to approving building warrants, in order to get shops trading promptly.”
He added that the Scottish government’s plans to levy water and sewerage charges on empty premises would not improve the situation.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “Leadership and collaboration at a local and national level based on temporal evidence is the only way to address the serious issues facing town centres and not just in Scotland but across the UK.”