The number of empty shops on Scotland’s high streets has fallen over the last year, according to a report on Scotland’s top 100 cities and towns published today by the University of Stirling’s Institute for Retail Studies and The Local Data Company (LDC).
The report, which reveals significant and new data on the health of Scotland’s high streets, shows that the average retail vacancy rate fell from 14.5% to 13.7% during the past year, with town vacancy rates improving at twice the rate of the cities.
However, 40% of empty shops in Scotland’s towns have remained vacant for more than three years.
East Kilbride has the highest vacancy rate of all Scottish towns at 33%, with Inverurie continuing to have the lowest rate at 1%. Dundee has the highest proportion of persistent vacancy at 11%.
Five towns have maintained vacancy rates at less than 6% for the last three years – Inverurie, Ellon, North Berwick, Dunbar and Biggar. At the other end of the spectrum, vacancy rates in Banff, Dumbarton, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Ardrossan have remained above 22% over the last three years.
The report highlights the importance of independent retailing to Scotland’s towns, making up with 56% of the total units, while leisure is an increasingly significant presence in cities and towns.
Professor Leigh Sparks, Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling said: "Understanding the changing retail component of towns remains fundamental to our comprehension of the place and functioning of Scotland’s urban centres. The Local Data Company’s consistent and extensive coverage of retail premises across Scotland forms the platform for our research into changing retailing in Scotland’s Towns.
"This updated research provides new measures, understanding and explanations for the level and extent of retailing, retail vacancy and the changing nature of Scotland’s high streets and town centres.
"The data provide a substantive platform and opportunity for our (University of Stirling/Local Data Company/ESRC) further analysis of Scotland’s places and the development of policy initiatives to support the Government’s ambitions for Scotland’s Towns."
Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company said: "Once again LDC is delighted to partner with the University of Stirling in independently analysing the state of Scotland’s towns.
"The report identifies important trends as well as quashes common perceptions that deprived towns can’t succeed. Of particular significance is that in many Scottish towns almost 40% of the vacant units have been vacant for more than three years. Such a stark figure implies obsolescence and a major barrier to healthy and sustainable places and communities."
The report’s key findings will be presented by Professor Leigh Sparks and Matthew Hopkinson at KPMG’s offices in Edinburgh at lunchtime today.
Following the presentation the research findings will be discussed by an expert panel chaired by Jane Bradley (The Scotsman) with Malcolm Fraser (Chair of the Scottish Government’s National Review of Town Centres), John Lee (Scottish Grocers Federation) and Chic Brodie MSP.
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