‘One-in-four shut tally not accurate’

Retail units/businesses on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool

Retail units/businesses on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool

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A SURVEY which states Blackpool has the second-worst rate of empty shops in the North West has been rubbished by business leaders.

The Local Data Company survey showed Blackpool as having a town centre vacancy rate of more than 27 per cent – meaning one in four shops is closed. It said the national average was 14.5 per cent.

But business leaders have called into question the methodology used by the Local Data Company after a similar survey from a different organisation showed Blackpool faring well compared to the national average for vacancies.

Town centre manager Eileen Ormand said buildings outside the core town centre – including those bought using compulsory purchasing powers and closed to make way for the Talbot Gateway development – had been included.

She said: “This survey says a quarter of our shops in the town centre are closed and that’s not the case.

“In May and June, official Springboard figures showed we had a town centre vacancy rate of less than 11 per cent and I think there’s only been TJ Hughes close its doors since then.

“This isn’t a case of burying our heads in the sand - we’re always concerned about empty premises and business being tough, but this kind of statement to the nation doesn’t do Blackpool any good.”

Data collation company Springboard UK’s last figures showed a far better picture – a Blackpool vacancy rate of 10.6 per cent, compared to a national average of 13.3 per cent.

Howard Lewis, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group, said: “No one would disagree that we’ve got more shops shut than we’d like, but I have been to many town centres worst-hit.

“Local Data has used an unfortunate way of looking at the figures. The Houndshill has been especially good at replacing lost traders. We may have lost the likes of TJ Hughes and Ethel Austin – but every town has.”

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “The stark reality is that Great Britain has too many shops in the wrong locations and of the wrong size. The diversity of shop vacancy rates is clear evidence that a local approach is required that ties in with consumer needs.” He said nationally, one in seven shops have remained vacant over the past year.