Preston’s number of empty shops in its city centre is running higher than the national average.Advertisement
A new report commissioned by Preston City Council shows the impact out-of-town shopping centres are having on city centre retailing – as well as the growth in online sales.
Nearly one in five of Preston’s high street shops remains empty – with large nationwide closures such as BHS hitting the city hard. This compares with a UK average of 11 per cent vacancy for units.
Empty shops came up as the biggest gripe residents in the city had when surveyed in the Big Blog Preston Survey.
Vacant units in thje city are clustered in the Church Street end of town, the current former Indoor Market building – which is due for redevelopment – and large former flagship stores like BHS in Fishergate.
With £367.8million spent in the city centre during 2018 it takes 23.6 per cent of available spend.
Next best is the Deepdale Shopping Park in Blackpool Road with £175.4m and Asda in Fulwood with £36.9m.
Management consulting firm WYG has recommended reducing the official definition of Preston city centre to focus on the main city centre uses.
Currently the boundary stretches down Fishergate Hill and into parts of Avenham.
Read more: New survey shows Preston has ‘cautious optimism’ about its future
They also say the Bus Station and car park should not be included in the city centre boundary.
Read more: See more about redevelopment in Preston
North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce policy manager Alan Welsh told Blog Preston in response to the report: “The increase in empty high street shops is not unique to Preston and is a problem for towns and cities right across the UK. Changes in consumer habits are a significant issue, however the tipping point for many of these firms has been the unnecessarily large burden that business rates place on them.
“We were pleased that the Chancellor heeded our calls to abandon the uprating of business rates for the high street for the next two years, and went further by cutting bills for the vast majority of high street firms. Business rates are a heavy burden that throttle all firms with steep bills regardless of how well they’re doing or the economy is faring. In the long term we will continue to call for fundamental reform of the business rates system.
“Preston is working hard to become a diverse destination that offers more than just a retail experience. That needs continued investment from the private sector and a commitment from local leaders to support businesses and encourage them to grow here. By attracting good quality, high value jobs to the area we will get more money in to the local economy and make high street businesses more sustainable.”
What do you think is the solution? What do you think would stimulate more openings in Preston city centre? Let us know your views in the comments below