High occupancy rates cause for optimism

The face of the UK’s High Streets is changing and the manifold impacts of the recession, changing shopping habits and the dominance of the supermarket have impacted in a way that few could have foreseen a decade or so ago says commercial property agency Prop-Search.

The length and breadth of the UK countless High Streets and town centres are the scene of unprecedented vacancy rates.  However, Wellingborough appears to be bucking this trend and forging ahead with plans to rejuvenate its retail centre.

Wellingborough was granted a royal market charter in 1201 by King John of England and is typical of many of the UK’s market towns.  In more recent times, the town has been the scene of rapid population growth and this is further predicted to grow by around 30 per cent over the next 25 years.

While this pace of growth offers the potential to make Wellingborough a bustling retail centre, the number of shops in the town centre has not grown to meet this demand.  This, along with the town’s position, within 25 miles of Northampton, Kettering, Corby and indeed Milton Keynes has resulted in many residents travelling to these larger towns to shop, taking potential revenue away from local businesses.

However, whilst recent figures from the British Retail Consortium showed town centre vacancy rates in the UK at 11.2 per cent.  The East Midlands is performing much better at 9.9 per cent with Wellingborough’s forging ahead with vacancy rates as of May 2011, even lower at 9.5 per cent.

Samantha Jones, a Surveyor at Prop-Search and a Director of the Wellingborough Town Centre Partnership: “There is plenty of room for further optimism.  For a market town Wellingborough is still doing very well, with a strong base of independents, increasingly high occupancy rates and larger retailers who recognise that the town has a good retail base.”

In recent months a number of new occupiers have opened in the town – Lace Lingerie on Silver Street, Bangladeshi Mission UK and The Loco Centre on Market Street and Captain Neil’s Toy Chest on High Street.  Prop-Search is also able to report that the former Disabled 2 Able premises, comprising 3,083 sq ft is under offer to a national charity, and that 2a Market Street – next to McDonalds – is also in the hands of solicitors.

Wellingborough retailers are also being given support to help improve trading in the town centre.  In June this year Wellingborough successfully become a Business Improvement District and its first environmental project has been to reduce trade waste collection costs and work towards the town becoming a zero carbon community.