LEADERS at Worcester BID say the city is bucking the national trend for the number of independent shops, and is better than the regional average for empty units.

Springboard's Quarterly Vacancy Rate Report for the UK shows that 10.5 per cent of the ground floor units in Worcester are empty, compared to 11.2 per cent for the West Midlands and 10.3 per cent nationally.

While 65.3 per cent of Worcester's businesses are classed as independent, compared to 20.2 per cent in the West Midlands and 36.4 per cent in the UK.

Phoebe Dawson, the chief executive of Worcester Business Improvement District (BID), which works to improve the city for traders, said: “It is understandably a challenging time for high street retailers and businesses. However, we have much to celebrate in Worcester, not least our wonderful independent businesses, with Exchange & Smart, Anja Potze Fine Jewellery and Saffrons Bistro all celebrating 25 years trading in the city centre.

"The diversity of our high street is what sets Worcester apart from other generic retail-based towns. We have charming independent businesses, recognised national retailers, a strong food and drink offering, and let’s not forget our fabulous heritage as well.

“Worcester BID works with our businesses to encourage people to visit our city, and the results speak for themselves – with the city bucking the national footfall trend for yet another year and actually performing stronger than last year for over 60% of this year.

“Nobody is denying that the high street isn’t changing but it is evolving, not dying. Our city centre has been recognised as one of the best in the country, when judges from Great British High Street Awards visited our city, they were impressed with the great mix of business and the general buzz across the city.

“Worcester Business Improvement District works closely with city partners and our businesses to ensure that the city remains an economically vibrant place to do business.”

The comments from the BID follow a recent report which said Worcester was among the worst places in the country for shop closures in the past six months.

In January there was a total of 259 shops in the city centre, which by July had dropped to 255, with 10 stores closing and six opening, according to the Local Data Company.

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