City bucks national trend for vacant shops

Julian Welch is BSM's man on the street in Peterborough

PETERBOROUGH is bucking the national trend when it comes to the number of vacant shop units, according to a retail property specialist at city commercial property agency, Barker Storey Matthews – now part of Eddisons.

Just under five per cent of the city centre’s retail property stock is vacant set against the national average rate of ten per cent.

Julian Welch (pictured smiling), Barker Storey Matthews’ retail expert in the city, has undertaken a survey of the vacant units in the immediate city centre and, combined with insider knowledge of those premises currently under offer to new occupiers, has identified just 22 vacant units out of the central shopping area’s property stock.

Barker Storey Matthews attributes Peterborough’s low retail vacancy rates, in part, to the compact nature of the central shopping area but also to the efforts of the City Council and property stakeholders in improving the physical environment for customers and retailers alike.

These efforts, plus the government’s current initiatives – granting 100 per cent business rates relief to all small business occupiers with a rateable value below £12,000 and, in addition, a 33 per cent reduction in all retail premises’ business rates bills where they have a rateable value below £51,000 – together with those landlords who are adopting a flexible approach when it comes to encouraging the type of retail occupier looking to ‘set up shop,’ all play their part in Peterborough’s ability to buck the prevailing national trend for vacant shop units.

Barker Storey Matthews points to the leading role independent and franchise operators in the restaurant and café sector are taking in keeping vacancy rates low in the city.  For instance, the former Cumbergate premises of highstreet Italian chain, Carluccios, saw Tap & Tandoor open in August. In nearby Cowgate, Embe – a new Afro-Caribbean dining experience – opened in May and 42 Cowgate has been fitted out over the summer ahead of the opening of Heavenly Desserts.

The low rate of retail property vacancies is not confined to Peterborough’s central shopping location. 

It is echoed in established neighbourhood and district shopping centres with Barker Storey Matthews referencing little availability of retail units in Werrington, Bretton, Hampton and the Lincoln Road, and only limited availability in the Orton Centre.

In summarising Peterborough’s retail position, Barker Storey Matthews’ Julian Welch said, “These latest statistics simply reinforce what the city’s property insiders have long known about the value and flexibility of its retail offering. And it’s those operators who can offer a product or a service which cannot be bought online who help keep Peterborough top of the shops.”