There was bad news for Nottingham this week as the Local Data Company issued its latest damning report of retail in the City. The vacancy rate increased over 12 months from 23.1% to 30.6%, according them.
I find this hard to reconcile.
The City Council, through Councillor Nick McDonald (the council’s portfolio holder for employment, skills and business), said in a press release:
“The figures in this survey are not an accurate description of city centre vacancy rates in Nottingham, suggesting as they do that almost one in three shops are empty. If you walk around the city centre you can see that just isn’t the case. In fact new shops have been opening up in Nottingham and Nottingham still has the fifth highest retail spend outside London.”
Nick is right – if you walk around it’s obvious that the City doesn’t have one in three empty shops.
But the issue here is that the City Centre is drawn to include all manner of areas – including Radford and Sneinton. These areas are not by any stretch of the imagination part of the centre!
But the Broad Marsh Centre doesn’t help. I have walked through on a number of occasions in recent months and it is a sad place. Where there aren’t discount retailers – 99p stores, Everything’s a Pound, Poundland et al there are boarded up shop fronts. There’s no reason to go there!
Last year the City Council put the vacancy rate at around 15% – one in 7. I think this is more realistic for the centre.
Perhaps as a City we ought to get some of our own data again – explain the boundaries and split out the Shopping Centres – which skew the figures.
In the meantime we now have the honour of being the worst performing major city centre. A badge we don’t want or need!
Update – a comment via email from Jackie Sadek at UK-Regeneration:
Tim, I do so agree. And I went on message in the Estates Gazette to say so. I have been speaking to Matthew Hopkinson, the Chief Executive of the Local Data Company about the boundaries that they use. They are CLG boundaries and not at all helpful. We are hoping to see him in a few days to discuss how to devise a more meaningful survey area (as all city and town centres will need to morph and evolve to survive, so it isn’t just Nottingham that stands to have misleading statistics) and I will be commenting again.
Of course, as you say, Nottingham’s figures were also skewed by the necessary emptying out of the Broadmarsh Centre in readiness for redevelopment.
An unnecessary row this, really. Nottingham is, by any objective analysis, a bustling and thriving city. Any retail agent will tell you that all the national and international brands have confidence in Nottingham. And I fully believe the CACI figure which has it as the 6th biggest retail draw out of London.
Well said you!
Jackie Sadek, UKR