Vacant NI shops twice the UK average

Published Monday, 19 November 2012
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The vacancy rate of shops in Northern Ireland is now twice the UK average, it has been revealed.

Vacant NI shops twice the UK average
One in four shops are vacant in Belfast. (© UTV)

One in five local shops is empty, according to the NIRC Shop Vacancy survey.

It's the highest rate in the UK - and if not for charity and pop up shops high streets would look pock marked with empty premises.

With the Christmas shopping season getting into full swing, Aodhan Connolly from the Retail Consortium told UTV many business owners will be concerned.

"The good news is that footfall is up - but by the same token questions need to be asked as to why that is not translating into sales," he said.

"We did have a bit of growth for September but now, coming into Christmas, it is a very worrying time for retailers as far as what people are spending goes."

The news comes after new national figures revealed disappointing trading in October.

But some shops are fighting back.

Delicatessan Sawers invested £100,000 recently to expand their offering in central Belfast.

"Times are tough," the store told UTV.

"What we've done is move into new premises and it has been like starting a new business. We have attracted a new clientele and taking that risk seems to be working for us."

Donald McFetridge, retail analyst with the University of Ulster said that the real threat to high street shopping is online.

"Advertising campaigns and potential traffic chaos are not going to be the key determinants of Christmas success or failure in the retail trade this year," he said.

"Online sales are already booming and this trend is set to continue. International analysts are predicting that, this year, online will really knock the socks of the high street and, for this reason, I can understand why city traders are, not unnecessarily, worried."

Meanwhile the NI Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) is pushing for the Executive to take urgent action in light of Monday's "alarming" figures.

"Belfast already has one in four shops vacant and the overall trend is moving toward a quarter of all shops being vacant by the middle of 2013," Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said.

"While these figures are alarming, our focus has to be on solutions to this growing problem. The Executive is making good progress on Rates and Car Parking but has still not produced a strong planning policy to support town centre retailing.

"The Executive needs a new joined up strategy to tackle this problem, alongside comprehensive retail development plans for each town and city to reverse this decline. NIIRTA has already published a 50 point plan, Town Centre First, setting out our ideas and we will continue to bring solutions to Ministers on this issue."

© UTV News
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5 Comments
Jamesbelfast in Belfast wrote (710 days ago):
Shops are closing simply because they have insufficient customers - fact. Apart from the cost of an article no matter how cheap if the money isn't out there people can't buy. I also prefer to support local business whenever I can. For instance I needed a new TV recently and like Iseult I was able to find the model I wanted cheaper on-line. Armed with this information I found two local shops who were prepared to match or better the online prices - better still both offered free delivery and one even offered free extended warranty. So I suggest the people of Northern Ireland try to keep local businesses afloat and be prepared to bargain - it definetely paid off for me.
Iseult in NI wrote (710 days ago):
I think we'd all like to support high street shops, but people simply don't have enough money to do so if they can get better value online. My husband and I bought some electrical goods last year - a new cooker, a washer-dryer and a tv set. They were all bought online simply because they were cheaper than if we'd bought locally. Amazingly the washer-dryer was about £160 cheaper bought online than if we'd bought the same model from Curry's, and delivery was free. The cooker was about £60 cheaper online and again delivery was free. I can't remember how much we saved on the tv set, but there was a definite saving, even though we paid for delivery. If shops in our own or nearby towns can't compete with online prices and online choice, then they won't attract the customer. I do support local shops as much as possible, but the fact is that online shopping is often cheaper and a lot handier as well.
Robert in Belfast wrote (711 days ago):
"Belfast already has one in four shops vacant and the overall trend is moving toward a quarter of all shops being vacant by the middle of 2013," Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said." Basic maths failure, any wonder the high street is having problems. With myself it was the bad coustmer service one has had to put up with, till the likes of Amazon came along. The high streets prices need to come down, for that to happen their landlords need to drop their rents. On top of that they need to understand that people don't need to leave their home to shop. Lower prices and give good service or close your doors.
sharne in portstewart wrote (711 days ago):
The reason the number of vacant shops is twice than on the mainland is because companies keep closing the majority of their Northern Irish branches and keeping the ones on the mainland.
norman.d in bangor wrote (711 days ago):
shops closing all over the country and Belfast city council can only talk about how many days to fly the flag just shows what we have running the councils they have no interest in the economy thousands losing their jobs and homes and flags are the only topic they care about
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