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West Bromwich and Walsall among top 10 in England for most empty shops

Sandwell | News | Published:

West Bromwich and Walsall are among the top 10 towns in England with the most empty shops, new figures revealed today.

With a vacancy rate of 27.1 per cent - up 0.5 per cent on 2013 - West Bromwich is fourth on the list and Walsall is ninth at 26.2pc - down 0.5 per cent.

The Local Data Company's latest Mind the Gap report, which looks at 3,000 town centres, shopping centres and retail parks, found almost one in five shops in England's northern towns and cities are empty, compared with just one in 10 in the south.

For the West Midlands as a whole the vacancy rate is up 0.2 per cent at an average of 18.2 per cent. It was the only region to see an increase. The average rate for England is 13.1 per cent.

Three Staffordshire towns - Burslem, Hanley and Stoke-upon-Trent - feature in the top 10.

Debden in Essex and Highgate in London with no empty shops topped the list of towns with the vacancy rate.

The rate of shop vacancies across the UK stood at 13.3 per cent at the end of last year, down from a February 2012 peak of 14.6 per cent.

The worst regional area is the North East, with a shop vacancy rate of 18.8 percent in the second half of 2014, a fall of 0.3 per cent on a year ago. The best region is London, with a vacancy rate of 8.7 per cent after a fall of 0.4 per cent..

The report also found that 20 per cent of all shops it tracked had been vacant for more than three years, which amounts to almost 10,000 outlets.

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Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: "This is the equivalent of five Manchesters lying empty."

The North West has led the country in terms of shop vacancies since 2008 but has now been edged out by the North East.

Mr Hopkinson said: "At a regional level the polarisation between the North and the South is as wide as ever with London's vacancy rate being less than half that of the northern regions."

Last month Tesco said it will close 43 stores and scrap the opening of 49 new outlets, while Morrisons said it will shut 10 as a response to losses incurred during the ongoing supermarket price war.

Mr Hopkinson added: "While the numbers announced to date are small beer to the totals, the significance lies with the fact that whilst traditional shops have been closing it has been the supermarkets and convenience stores that have been expanding significantly which has kept the occupancy rates balanced.

"The question as to who will occupy these newly vacant stores as well as those, which have been empty for a while is a very difficult one to answer positively."

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