• Shop vacancies fall in hardest hit communities
• Cities show more empty units back in use
RETAIL may still be a tough business but there are signs that some of Scotland’s town centres are recovering from the difficulties of recent years and that some of the worst-hit areas are bouncing back best.
A report published last month by The Local Data Company and The Institute for Retail Studies, at the University of Stirling, on Scotland’s top 100 cities and towns showed that in 2015 compared to 2014 Scotland’s average shop vacancy rate fell from 13.7% to 12.9%.
Overall town vacancy rates remained the same at 12.9%, but cities saw a 0.5% improvement. The large South Lanarkshire new town East Kilbride has the highest vacancy rate of Scottish towns at 29.7%. But that was down from 33%, one of the fastest declines. Biggar, also in South Lanarkshire, has the lowest vacancy rate at 1.8%.
Five towns maintained retail vacancy rates at 5% or less in the last three years – Biggar, Dunbar, North Berwick, Aviemore and Auchterarder. Huntly, where vacancies fell by 10.2 %, saw the biggest decline in vacancy rates during the 2014/15 period.
Inverkeithing, where vacancies rose 9.2%, had the biggest increase. Some 6.8% of units in Scotland’s towns have been vacant for more than three years.
Professor Leigh Sparks, Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling said: “The vacancy rate continues to decline in Scotland and in Scottish towns and cities. This is reflective of both the local economy and of restructuring changes occurring in town and city centres.”