Matthew Hopkinson, Director of retail research business Local Data Company
The term ‘high street’ means different things to different people, but many take it to mean shopping centres and retail parks as well as the more traditional town centre connotation.
It is also one of the most used phrases with regards to the ‘death of the high street’. But when considering this issue it is important to look at the three retail types separately.
Vacancy rates appear to be stabilising - March saw a marginal increase of 0.02% to 14.14%, down from the peak of August and September last year, when they reached 14.6%.
But this number masks the underlying polarisation by region or type of retail centre.
Changes are being played out in the three categories. For example, nearly two thirds of town centres are below the national vacancy rate, as are 72% of retail parks.
Greater analysis generally shows that the locations above the national average have doggedly held this position while those below have shown improvements in their fortunes - suggesting things are perhaps not as bad as they seem.
Shopping centres, however, are the ones to watch, with an even 50% below the national average. As a result, this retail type has the greatest potential impact on the ‘high street’.