8:40am Saturday 24th March 2012
By Dolores Cowburn
Bradford has been named as the most risky city in the UK to invest in retail with a high number of empty shops, a damning report has said.
The survey found the district is most vulnerable to store closures, with a hugh number of vacant units and charity shops.
Bradford came ahead of Derby, Wolverhampton, Southampton, Hull and Sheffield with places like Lewisham and Wood Green in greater London emerging as two of the best high street trading locations.
Meanwhile vacancy figures from the Local Data Company showed that the national shop vacancy rate rose to an all-time high of 14.6 per cent last month, the highest figure recorded since LDC began its index in 2008.
The research for the Retail Risk Index by BNP Paribas Real Estate was compiled by looking at the number of vacant units and charity shops in 100 locations.
Councillor Dave Green, the executive member for regeneration, said that none of the consultants had bothered to ask Bradford Council what their strategy was to deal with the issues raised by the report.
“Given the history of ignoring the city centre over the last decade by the Council and others it is not surprising that, on the historical information, they have come up with this analysis,” he said.
“What I am not clear about is when the work was done and what they have taken into account.
“Have they looked at our recent work or the success of the Growth Fund bid (which will provide rates relief to businesses)?
“This is another piece of negative publicity we could have done without.”
The news comes as Game, the computer game retailer, entered administration with the threat of 600 store closures. Val Summerscales, of the Bradford Chamber of Trade, said that the report showed that Bradford was no different to any other city centre.
She said: “This is obviously disappointing but no-one can really say businesses would be less successful in Bradford than anywhere else.”
Retail sales values, the amount spent on retail nationally, grew by 3.2 per cent between February 2011 and last month, the Office for National Statistics has found.
Ian Parish, head of retail at BNP Paribas, said that the index did not mean those towns most at risk were doomed. “There are opportunities at each end of the scale,” he said.
The report comes just days after another report showed that Bradford was still punching below its weight in terms of attracting shoppers and is the fourth highest retail area in terms of the number of pound shop-type discount stores in the city.
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