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The high street will never be the same again, say analysts

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The latest research paper from the KPMG/Synovate Retail Think Tank (RTT) has come to some interesting conclusions about how changing shopping habits are affecting the nation’s high streets.

The current shop vacancy problem is misunderstood, the analysts say, and action should now be taken to re-zone empty shop units that are not just vacant but are now permanently obsolete.

As the recession continues, there has been much talk about how shop closures are changing the face of high streets and shopping centres across the UK, say the analysts, quoting Experian figures that suggest one in seven UK shops — some 135,000 units — will be vacant by Christmas 2009. “However, one in eight or one in nine are usually vacant anyway,” says RTT, and “members consider that store closures are a long-term structural issue, rather than simply a short-term cyclical effect of the recession.”

“Shopping habits have been changing for many years, with consumer demands for greater choice, in larger purpose-built stores, increased price sensitivity and more mobility leaving many small traditional shops surplus to requirements,” it adds. “Vacancy rates in tertiary locations were high well before the onset of recession.”

“The RTT urges local authorities to acknowledge the realities of the situation and where appropriate re-zone shopping that is clearly redundant for other uses,” the analysts conclude.

Readers can read the full white paper on the RTT website.

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