Charity shops and nailbars take over high street

'Service retail' shops are opening as traditional retailers struggle to survive on the high street. Picture: Julie Bull
'Service retail' shops are opening as traditional retailers struggle to survive on the high street. Picture: Julie Bull
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Shops left empty on Scottish high streets in the wake of the recession are being filled by service retail businesses such as hairdressers, tattoo parlours and nail salons rather than traditional shops.

Almost two thirds of Scotland’s towns have seen a rise in the presence of service retail outlets, double that of traditional goods retail.

The vacancy rate continues to decline in Scotland and in Scottish towns and cities

Professor Leigh Sparks

Empty stores are also being filled by charity shops – according to a snapshot of Scotland’s high streets, published by the Local Data Company and the University of Stirling – with 55 per cent of towns witnessing an increase since 2012.

Scotland’s average retail vacancy rate fell from 13.7 per cent to 12.9 per cent over the past year. East Kilbride has the highest vacancy rate of all Scottish towns at 29.7 per cent, but down from 33 per cent 12 months ago and one of the fastest declines in Scotland.

Professor Leigh Sparks, head of the Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, said: “The mix of businesses is altering and the adjustment process to the new form of town centres is underway, more strongly in some places than others.”

Independent shops make up 56 per cent of the total units trading in Scotland’s towns. Gourock has the highest proportion of independent shops, at 79 per cent, while Gretna has the lowest proportion at 6 per cent.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “This latest report shows not only the significant variances across Scotland in terms of the number of empty shops but also how many of the towns are changing and adapting to the challenges brought on by the internet, out of town shopping centres and retail parks as well as the impact of the supermarkets and overall lower consumer spend levels than in the past.”

The report showed that stores occupied by leisure businesses, such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, made up 41 per cent and 42 per cent respectively of town centre properties in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Even smaller towns such as Aviemore, Fort William, St Andrews, Burntisland and Renfrew have a large proportion of leisure businesses, with the sector making up more than 30 per cent of all retail properties.