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Worcester's shops are bucking the trend
WORCESTER has bucked the national trend with one of the lowest figures of vacant shops in the country.
There are 59 empty units in the city centre, a total of 11.2 per cent compared with a vacancy rate of 18.5 per cent across the West Midlands.
According to a report published yesterday by the Local Data Company, the West Midlands suffered the sharpest decline in vacancy rates, up from 17.7 per cent six months ago.
The average vacancy rate nationally was reported as 14.6 per cent at the end of June, up from 14.3 per cent six months ago.
But in more good news for Worcester, Adrian Field, Worcester BID manager, said of the 59 empty units seven are either being refurbished or are earmarked or planned for occupation.
Worcester city centre has also recently welcomed restaurant chain Zizzi’s and the area around South Quay has been developed, including the new Brown’s bar.
Mr Field said: “Worcester has done pretty well. It’s the national stores that have gone, but we’re encouraged about the fact that businesses, both national and independent, are still interested in Worcester.
“The offer we have got in Worcester is a well accessed city in pleasant surroundings.
“We’ve got a good mix of independents and multiples, which we hope investors will continue to pick up on.”
Three new retailers have also launched recently in CrownGate shopping centre, including Sports Direct, the Bag Store and Vibe, and work is under way on two new food offers, which will be opening before Christmas.
Erica Burlace, CrownGate centre manager, said: “We are fully aware that economic conditions are still very tough.
“However, our current void rate is lower than the national average at 8.6 per cent, not including two units which are under genuine offer.
“Footfall in the centre last month was up 1.6 per cent on last August 2011, and up three per cent on this July.
“Since the opening of the Hive and Sawmill Walk, the closest entrance from there into the centre, we have seen an amazing uplift in people coming into CrownGate via this route – from 6,000 this time last year to more than 34,000 this year – an increase of 466 per cent, which has undoubtedly boosted trade in the Friary Walk part of the centre.”
Emma Lathwood, manager at Stripes in Foregate Street, added that independent stores offer visitors to Worcester a wide range and choice of items, also making them popular in the city centre.
She said: “Customers like the one-to-one service and they like something a bit different, that’s not on the high street.”