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Falling empty shop figures are uplifting for local economy

14 August 2018

A reduction in the number of empty shops in South Lakeland is more positive news for the local economy.

The level of vacant retail premises in some areas is below 5%, which is less than half the national average. 

The latest figures are encouraging, showing support for town centre businesses is paying off. 

Councillor Graham Vincent, our Portfolio Holder for Economy and Assets, said: “We have seen a steady reduction in the number of empty shops in most areas and it is encouraging to see that it is continuing.

“Across South Lakeland we have more shops per capita than in other town centres because of our tourism culture and the fact that we have more shops and a higher occupancy rate shows a positive outlook for the local economy.

“We have also seen a noticeable rise in the quality of shops, bars and cafes attracted to our high streets. This says everything about the entrepreneurial spirit which exists here and how our town centres are evolving to meet the demands of visitors and residents, bringing vibrancy to the area and improving quality of life.”

Empty shop numbers are collected every six months by our economic development team, focussing on locations such as Kendal, Ulverston, Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside, Grange-over-Sands, Milnthorpe.and Kirkby Lonsdale.

Figures for June 2018 show that Kendal had eight fewer empty shops than last year. In Bowness the number of vacant retail units had fallen from 12 to seven.

Both Grange and Kirkby Lonsdale had seen the number of empty retail premises reduced to four, sharing the lowest percentage of vacant shops in the district. 

“This is good news but we also recognise that there is still much work to do and we will continue to visually enhance high streets and help support businesses,” added Cllr Vincent.

Figures show that the number of empty shops in Milnthorpe remained the same, at nine. Ulverston had one more empty shop than the previous year, rising to 13.

During the count a number of vacant shops in Ambleside and Windermere were found to be in transition, with new tenants preparing to move in.   

“SLDC has a key priority to help the district to thrive commercially. We are working with partnership organisations like Kendal Futures, the Business Improvement Districts and town and parish councils and this is another really positive indicator that our economy is growing,” added Cllr Vincent.     

In Kirkby Lonsdale only 4.7% of the town’s 85 shops were vacant and in Bowness just 4.8% of the 147 shops were empty. The national average retail vacancy rate is 11.2% and the North West average is 14.1%.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show South Lakeland’s economy has become the fastest growing in Cumbria, out-performing neighbouring districts authorities and overtaking the cities of Lancaster and Carlisle. 

South Lakeland has also been listed as one of the North West’s top five ‘vibrant economies’ by accountants Grant Thornton.