Town centre bucks shop closure trend

Picture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin

Falkirk’s town centre received a boost this week as new figures show it is still bucking the trend for attracting new business to the high street.

Falkirk was the only Scottish town or city which had more shops opening than those closing in the first half of this year, despite big retailers such as BHS and Poundstretchers moving out of High Street.

The good news comes amid a trend of closures nationally with a rise in stores shutting up shop from 140 in 2015 to 203, with just 116 opening in the first half of this year, according to research by The Local Data Company and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

All other areas in Scotland reported a fall in shop occupancy at a rate of 1.1 stores closing each day throughout the country – a net rate of -2.7 per cent compared to the UK average of -0.8 per cent.

In January this year, Falkirk had 125 businesses listed as ‘high street’ premises which rose to 126 by the end of June.

While the margin is only one, there is cause for celebration as there were three closures offset by four new openings, showing a welcome rise in new businesses opening up in Falkirk for the second year in a row.

Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for economic development Dennis Goldie said: “It’s obviously good news for Falkirk that we are bucking trend of store closures.

“Credit must go to the retailers in Falkirk. This also shows that the money we are spending in the town centre is paying dividends and attracting businesses.

“People are showing faith in our town centre and we will continue to try our best and get more and more people to invest in Falkirk.”

Adam Turner, assistant director of PwC, said: “Cause for cheer as Falkirk continues to buck the trend and be the sole source of positivity around the figures in Scotland, however, the margin is tight as we saw four stores open compared to three closing.

“It’s encouraging to see shoppers turning out to support their local bricks and mortar outlets and hopefully that will continue post-Christmas and into 2017 as we potentially start to see more impact from the EU referendum result.”

Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, pointed out the trends in high street stores.

He said: “The spaces left by the traditional occupants of our high streets are being increasingly filled by health care operators, food and beverage operators and the ongoing rise of the discounters.

“Understanding the ‘who’ and ‘where’ when it comes to multiple retailers is the key to create the destination that leads to successful and healthy town centres.

“Chains are having to work harder than ever to guarantee store location, format and experience along with a strong web presence, social presence and logistical operation that delivers to consumers’ ever increasing demands of ‘now’. This is severely impacting profitability and hastens store closures.”