Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Is this a problem you find when you go shopping? Maybe that’s because the shop that sells it has closed. A report by the Local Data Company has revealed that one in eight shops stand empty on Britain’s high streets, after the recession saw vacancies shoot up by 24% in the second half of 2009. The number of empty town-centre shops climbed to 17,880 in the second half of 2009, equivalent to 12% of the 149,000 shops covered by the research.

Margate in Kent and Wolverhampton in the Midlands were two of the worst-hit areas, where vacant shops stood at 27% and 24% respectively. Take a stroll down a high street in almost any city or town in the UK and you are bound to see ‘Shop for let’. We’ve seen Woolworths and Borders close down and Threshers’ parent company collapse. But these stores have largely remained empty.

Empty houses have also been a problem as the number of repossessions increases. Statistics show an average of 126 people a day were thrown out of their homes in 2009. What is the explanation behind this?

An obvious answer is the recession. As shops felt the strain of low demand, some were simply unable to cope and they shut down as a result. At the same time, new firms were reluctant to take the risk and enter the market during an economic downturn – and who can blame them?

However, are there other reasons why Britain’s high streets are seeing more and more empty shops? The following articles look at the reshaping of our high streets and some of the explanations behind it.

Empty Shops
Shops ‘empty due to recession’ The Press Association (11/2/10)
UK recession has left one in eight shops empty Telegraph, Graham Ruddick (11/2/10)
Bradford second worse for empty shop premises Telegraph and Argus, Will Kilner (11/2/10)
25% of town shops now empty Express and Star (11/2/10)
British town centres in crisis, conference told Reuters, Sinead Cruise (10/2/10)
Empty shop numbers continue to rise in UK Property Week, Laura Chesters (10/2/10)
Empty shops caused by more than recession Startups (12/2/10)

Empty Homes
Buy-to-let: Landlords blow as tenants struggle to pay Telegraph (11/2/10)
Housing Minister says repossession is the ‘best thing’ for homeowners Telegraph, Myra Butterworth (11/2/10)
Home repossessions at highest since 1995 This is Money (11/2/10)


  1. What are the main factors behind the high number of empty shops? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate these factors.
  2. In the Startups Article, the BRC Director says: “High street shops are often battling big bills for business rates and rents, parking and access difficulties, as well as failure to manage and invest in the area.” Illustrate this on a diagram and explain how this effect has contributed to empty shops.
  3. To what extent is more internet shopping the main cause of the problem? Why is it cheaper to run a business via the internet than on a high street?
  4. Why have some cities and towns been more affected than others?
  5. Is there a link between empty shops and repossessions?
  6. What more could the government and local councils do to try to encourage businesses to set up on the high street?