Town centres closing as shoppers flock elsewhere

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A NEW survey of town centres in Scotland shows a number of locations where more than one in four shops is lying empty.

Worst hit is the centre of Cumbernauld, where 42.2 per cent of shops are unused.

Glenrothes and Grangemouth are also among the town centres worst hit by retail blight – with the figures showing more than one in four shops is empty.

Figures from the Local Data Company show shoppers are continuing to visit shops in picturesque seaside and tourist towns while many town centres are becoming run down.

Matthew Hopkinson, chief executive of the Local Data Company, said: “It is a real mixed bag but the results show there is a real structural change going on which is set to continue.”

According to figures released this week by LDC, Cumbernauld is one of the places worst hit by the downturn in retail.

More than four out of ten shops (42.2 per cent) are now closed in the new town, which was built around its shopping centre.

By contrast, Callander, the gateway to the Highlands, remains a popular shopping destination with only 3.3 per cent of shops currently lying empty. Anstruther, Dunbar and St Andrews are also among the most successful towns for retail.

Hopkinson said: “The figures show that people would rather shop in somewhere that is a pleasant place. If you have a choice between somewhere run down and somewhere attractive with historic buildings or somewhere by the sea, you are going to choose to go somewhere more attractive.”

Across the whole of Scotland the average number of closed shops is now 15.5 per cent. However, figures obtained by The Scotsman show some retail centres are faring considerably better than others.

In Glasgow, one in five shops is currently lying empty – with the city centre showing a 20.4 per cent count of empty shops. By contrast, in oil-rich Aberdeen only 11.8 per cent of shops are closed, with the number of shops currently in occupation rising.

Edinburgh also fares better than average, with more than one in ten shops closed (11.6 per cent), while in Stirling the rate of empty shops is 13.3 per cent.

However, Inverness has been hit worse by the retail slump, with 17.6 per cent of shops currently lying empty.

This year has seen a number of closures in the high street, with other retail firms running into difficulties and closing down badly performing branches.

Jessops camera shops closed all its branches this year, while music retailer HMV is currently restructuring after running into financial difficulties.

Retail analysts predict the next five years will see sweeping changes on the high street, as retailers concentrate more on online spending and physical shops are shut down.

Over the past few years the trend has been for retailers with a strong online presence to perform better. Analysts say retailers are increasingly closing less profitable branches in quieter town centres.