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12/02/2015

Welsh retail decline bucks the trend elsewhere in UK

Words: Roger Milne

The fall in shoppers using Welsh high streets has “significantly outpaced” the situation in other parts of the UK, says a new report.

Footfall in Wales was down by 2.2 per cent in 2014, compared with a rise of 2 per cent in Northern Ireland, an increase of 0.6 per cent in Scotland and a fall of 0.5 per cent for the UK as a whole.

Shop vacancy rates in Wales fell between October 2013 and October 2014, from 16.7 per cent to 14.2 per cent, but are still consistently above the UK average of about 10 per cent.

Those figures were highlighted in a report prepared for the Welsh Retail Consortium that highlighted that after manufacturing the sector is the second-largest private sector employer in Wales with up to 130,000 staff.

The report said: “A thriving retail environment has huge benefits for local communities and to continue to attract businesses to our high streets we need to see the right environment to support economic growth.”

Director of the WRC, Sara Jones, admits change on high streets is inevitable with fewer shops in the future, but insists town centres should not be left to die. She said: “We still need to be investing in our communities and through our high streets as a lever to doing that. Our high streets are still integral to local regeneration and the future prosperity of communities.”

Cutting business rates would be helpful, argued Jones.

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