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Number of empty shops in Norfolk at highest level since 2016

PUBLISHED: 16:30 12 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 12 August 2019

Shoppers are increasingly seeing empty stores in the high street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shoppers are increasingly seeing empty stores in the high street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Shop vacancies in Norfolk is at its highest level for three years - with one in 12 units on the high streets of the county lying empty.

Executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) Stefan Gurney. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018Executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) Stefan Gurney. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

The vacancy rate in the East of England has been steadily increasing since April 2016, according to data collected by retail intelligence specialists Springboard.

The region's percentage of empty retail units now stands at 8.4% - an increase of 0.7% on when it was last measured in April.

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It has slowly crept up since January of 2016, when it sat at just 5.4%.

However, despite the amount of empty shop fronts increase in Norfolk, the region is still faring much better than the national average.

Across the UK one in 10 stores are empty with a vacancy rate of 10.3% - the worst it's been in four years.

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Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich BID, said that Norwich's higher retention of retail tenants was down to its offering: "Norwich has managed to maintain a strong mix of independent and boutique stores.

"It's a city centre that is unique and does not just provide another clone town approach to retail bricks and mortar; the coffee shops, restaurants and cafes all create a strong social meeting space that supports the wider city offer.

"Many East of England towns and cities have a great mix of retail and social use."

Mr Gurney added that the communities who have fallen out of love with their high streets can always be brought back: "City centres that buck the national trend need to offer a wide mix of use.

"Empty shops can used for a variety of business uses and flexibility and imagination will create a stronger and more diverse city that works better for the community."

Across the country footfall also fell by 1.9% in July, the worst July performance for seven years.

However in April Norwich's footfall was up 8% where the rest of the country was down 0.5%.

Mr Gurney added: "Retail is not dead, it is just changing. Norwich identified the change in user experience after the economic crash of 2008 and starting working with all the city partners to change our approach to planning and development, reflected in our bucking the national trends."

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