Empty shops hits highest rate in 15 months

Suffolk retailers must place strong emphasis on digital channels to boost sales

A report from the British Retail Consortium has found that the number of empty shops on the UK’s high streets has hit the highest level since its survey began in July 2011.

The town centre vacancy rate is now 11.3 per cent.

Although many are pointing towards the internet as a key driver behind the demise of the high street, Dan Wagner, Chairman and CEO of mPowa, said that both must coexist in a smart multichannel retailing strategy.

He said, “Consumers have become more demanding in the way they purchase goods than ever before.

“Sophisticated mobile handsets and tablets mean shoppers have a myriad of choices on how, what and when they buy.

“The challenge for the retailers in Suffolk is to ensure that they have a variety of platforms which allow them to purchase at the point when the customer is ready, wherever they might be.

“Many retailers who have not got a comprehensive multichannel strategy are suffering severe consequences as result.”

According to researchers at Booz and Company, SMEs in the UK generate 48.8 per cent of private-sector turnover and employ 59 per cent of private-sector personnel.

However, 25 per cent say that basic digital awareness and skills hinder them in digital engagement.

Dan continued: “Whilst SMEs could stand to gain the most from online sales, their awareness remains poor.

“Bricks and mortar stores can’t afford to ignore the benefits that digital channels can deliver and if they can incorporate this into their current approach to retailing, they can become much better prepared for the modern shopper.”

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (December 6) Echo.