Head of Retail Nick Turk told business leaders in Bristol that void rates in high quality destinations were on the rise - while some secondary locations were improving.
The figures were revealed in the company’s annual Midsummer Retail Report, which was unveiled on Wednesday. Posing the question ‘Is the High Street Dead’, the report paints a more upbeat picture for the West’s retailers.
Nick Turk said: “Some smaller market towns with limited competition are prospering. On the other hand some core centres have not proved as resilient. The rest of the retail world is similarly mixed.”
Business leaders were told some 7,000 stores had closed in the UK since the downturn began in 2008. Figures revealed that Britain has upwards of 55 million square feet of empty retail space – with the South West vacancy rate holding at around 14 per cent.
“With void rates increasing in some of our prime locations retailers could be drawn back to secondary locations by cheaper rents. This could lead to a resurgence in local retailing.”
Nick Turk said the retail sector was finally showing signs of post recessional activity and stabilisation was returning to the market.
“Some sectors remain buoyant especially at the budget end of the market but it’s not all banks, bookies and buns. Landlords are also being more pragmatic about the rents from certain properties. Quality and configuration are the key factors in closing a deal.”
Looking forward, the Midsummer Retail Report forecasts that a steadily increasing population combined with a modest economic recovery in the region of three per cent could see the retail sector returning to pre-recession levels by 2020.
Nick said: “After 2020 there will be a resurgence in demand for the right type of bricks and mortar. By 2025 much of the spare space we see now will be re-absorbed. Strong dominant centres will continue to be in demand alongside smaller localised centres often anchored by a major chain.
“But medium sized towns might continue to face challenges. These have fallen down the retail hierarchy and need to be re-positioned to appeal to the local people in much the same way as Clifton continues to perform a local function alongside Cabot Circus.
He concluded: “These towns need to regain a sense of purpose and perform additional functions not just retail provision.”