Wales sees highest increase in independent retailers

Wales has seen the biggest increase in the number of independent retailers in the past three years, up from 52 per cent to 57 per cent.

So said a survey by The Local Data Company (LDC) and University of Cardiff of 71 Welsh towns and cities. It also found that Wales was more multiple retailer-oriented (38 per cent), compared with the UK as a whole (35 per cent).

Wales was found to have higher vacancy rates (14.2 per cent) in 2015 than the UK (13 per cent). However, that was an improvement on the 15.3 per cent of premises that were vacant in Wales in 2014.

Welsh towns performed better than Welsh cities, with 6.2 per cent of the total units vacant for over three years in towns, compared with 9.6 per cent in cities.

Milford Haven had the highest vacancy rate of all Welsh towns, at 35.8 per cent, although this bettered 2014’s figure of 40.4 per cent.

Looking at the overall UK picture, the total number of units that had been vacant for more than three years was highest in Scotland at 6.8 per cent, followed closely by Wales at 6.3 per cent and then England at 3.4 per cent.

Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: “Wales has consistently shown above-average shop vacancy rates compared with England and Scotland. The local economy is a key driver of the health of town centres and this is challenging in parts of Wales, where wage levels are low and unemployment rates high.

“Most recently, this is evident with the job losses within the steel industry – a significant employer in south Wales. While regeneration is taking place in parts, and vacancy rates have improved by one per cent, there is a significant variance between the best performers – where vacancy rates are at one-in-10 shops lying empty – and the others, where one-in-three lie empty.

“Wales faces a challenging time, as in many locations there are just too many shops. And with the likelihood of reduced consumer spending, brought on by rising unemployment and easier access to the prime centres, then we can expect to see a decrease in retailer demand to occupy the many empty shops in more of the challenged locations.”