THE number of vacant shops in Blackpool has risen at a higher rate than the rest of the country, a survey has found.
Figures from the Local Data Company for 2012 showed the shop vacancy rate in the resort was 23.9 per cent, compared to 20.2 per cent for the North West and a national rate of 14.2 for the whole of Britain.
The group said vacancy rates at out of town shopping centres were much lower at 10 per cent.
Lytham and St Annes’ vacancy rate was 11.4 per cent while Preston’s rate was 24.7, and Blackburn’s 27.6.
But Eileen Ormand, Town Centre BID (business improvement manager), said while Blackpool had been affected by the national trend on the high street the LDC figures were not always the latest.
She said a Springboard Vacancy Rate data report today showed the town had a vacancy rate of 14.5 per cent which was just 0.1 per cent higher than in 2011. The regional Springboard figure was 13.6 per cent.
She said: “Despite the very high profile closures of national chains such as Jessops, among others, we have seen positive signs from our local independent retailers and the bigger names on our own high street.
“In fact, January’s cold and snow seems to have worked in the favour of high streets and town centres across the country, as local people once again appreciated the value of local shops on their doorsteps.
“Out of town locations saw footfall drop by 7.2 per cent in January compared to a drop of only 3.3 per cent in town centres.”
Steve Pye from the Blackpool Federation of Small Businesses, added: “There are a number of well documented reasons why the high street is suffering, and to make matters worse, there are reports of a further 144 retail outlets, both large and small, in danger of closing across the UK.”
Warwick Tunnicliffe, chairman of the St John’s Square Traders Association in Blackpool, said easing parking restrictions would help town centre traders.
He added: “Allowing people to park like they used to years ago would get town centres buzzing again.”