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Empty shops ‘not a cause for concern’
A HIGH number of shops empty or to let in Malvern town centre is no cause for alarm, traders and town leaders insist.
Prime shopfronts in Church Street previously occupied by Superdrug, Blackwell and Bond and Julian Graves all currently stand empty, while “to let”
signs loom large outside Boots, Dorothy Perkins and long-standing independent storeMalvern CountryMeals.
The state ofthe town centre concerned one dismayed shopper so much they contacted the Gazette to say: “It looked really depressing walking down Church Street and seemed like almost every other shop was closed or to let.” But Anna Brook, of Great Malvern Association of Traders, said that was a misconception and insisted the town centre is doing well in difficulttimes.
“People see an empty premises and assume it has gone bust but that is very often not the case,” she said.
“It never looks good to have empty premises but it is natural there is going to be a turnover of shops.
“Our vacancy rate is lower than the national average and our shops are always filled in a very short amount oftime.
“We are bucking the national trend with the health of our town centre and we are inthemiddle of a reallyhorridrecession.
Ms Brook said an as-yet unidentified tenant has been found for Superdrug and that the “to let” sign above Boots is for upper floor offices, with the store itself goingnowhere.
The Gazette contacted Boots and Dorothy Perkins for confirmation but did not receive any response. Malvern Country Meals owner Chrys Titshall said deciding not to renew his lease after almost 20 years was a tough decision.
He believes the town centre remains in good health but the market has changed and left businesses like his behind.
“It is very costly to have a presence on the high street and trade in the centre of Malvern is very different now to when we started,” he said.
“People are not using the town centre for everyday food or necessity shopping anymore.”
Malvern Country Meals will close its store at the end of its lease in September, or with a month’s notice if a tenant is found before. However, it is not the end for the business as Mr Titshall is planning to launch an online delivery service.
Figures from Malvern Hills District Council show the shop vacancy rate at six per cent, lower than the national average of eight per cent.
Deputy leader Paul Swinburn said empty shops are never a welcome sight, but added: “It is common for there to be some vacant premises in a town centre to allow for ‘churn’ and new business entry.”