Number of empty shops in Nottingham falls - as clothes store reports success in new location
MOVING into a vacant shop has been a breath of fresh air for clothes shop Cow.
The store moved from George Street, Hockley, into a long-term empty unit in nearby Carlton Street in November.
It was the first time customers had set foot in the building since it was last used as Sonny's restaurant in 2004.
Cow's manager, Keighan Kelly, said the shop had gone from strength to strength since the move.
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She said: "I'd say turnover has pretty much doubled on average on Saturdays.
"Things have also improved in the week, with some days having double the takings.
"Before, I managed the place on my own and had a couple of part-time supervisors.
"I've been able to give the staff more hours and take on a full-time supervisor, so the move has created new jobs."
There are plans to turn Cow's old shop into offices.
The news comes as figures released today by the Local Data Company claim shop vacancy rates in Nottingham are 26 per cent, down from 29.6 per cent a year ago.
The city council disputed last year's figures, saying the organisation had included shops outside the city centre, in places such as Alfreton Road and Mansfield Road.
The authority has again questioned the accuracy of the new figures. It quotes a survey by Experian which shows shop vacancy rates in 2012 were at 18.2 per cent – up from 16 per cent in 2011.
The council says the Experian figures provide a more accurate city centre boundary than the LDC survey.
Councillor Nick McDonald, council portfolio holder for jobs, skills and business, said: "It's clear that the LDC data doesn't reflect the number of empty shops in what most people would consider to be the city centre. We say this each time this survey is released, but it is clear that 26 per cent of city centre properties are not empty.
"The report shows Nottingham's vacancy rate falling, but it is still highly inaccurate.
"Whilst an 18.2 per cent vacancy rate is still too high, we have a clear strategy in place, with a target to reduce empty shops over the next two years. We know this is going to be a difficult target to meet, particularly in the current economic climate, but it's important we are ambitious in tackling this issue."
Ms Kelly said, however, that more needed to be done to fill empty units. She said: "Broadmarsh is a bit of an embarrassment. People are supposed to come here for the shopping experience. This side of town is quite nice but it is not the first thing you see."
The LDC figures rank Nottingham as the fifth-worst large centre in the country, an improvement on second-worst 12 months ago.
Its findings state the East Midlands average for shop vacancies for 2012 was 16.2 per cent, down from 16.7 per cent in 2011.
The average for Britain in 2012 was 14.2 per cent, down from 14.3 per cent.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC, said: "The picture is one of increasing polarisation of performance between town centres, shopping centres and retail parks in every part of the country.
"Online is driving growth for a majority of retailers and so 2013 is all about the supporting role that shops will have as 'customer experience' centres and showrooms as much as transactions through their tills."
For more reaction to the figures, see today's Business Post.