Subdued Retail Sector Weighs on Town Centre

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As the recession continues to bite, business lettings in Eastleigh remain languishing in the doldrums as the recent consultation paper on the Eastleigh Town Access plan acknowledged, describing the Town Centre as ‘Underperforming’.

A report issued last week by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said economic growth in the third quarter was “considerably” slower than the previous quarter.

At the same time The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said retail sales growth slowed last month, with like-for-like sales up only 0.5% from a year ago. They added that consumer confidence was ‘fragile’ with little evidence of increased spending to beat the VAT rise planned for January.

The BRC have also warned that business rates for April 2011 will be based on last month’s RPI. Recent RPI figures of 4.6% would mean a larger than expected increase which many retailers may not have budgeted for.

Empty Shops and Offices

In January Eastleigh News ran a story entitled ‘Eastleigh’s Empty Shop Economy’ which reported a shocking 19 vacant shops and 13 offices in Eastleigh town centre.

Now, 10 months on the situation is hardly any better as a search on the Costar commercial property website shows 17 vacant shop units in the town centre and almost 40,000 sq feet of office space available.

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In the borough as a whole, there are currently a total of 36 empty retail units and 29 offices.

Most notably there is office space available in the council owned Wessex House and Black Horse House both on Upper Market Street – and also in the former railway works building on Campbell Road.

In January the Daily Echo ran a story saying up to 400 jobs would be created by new tenants at the converted railway building – a claim that was repeated by the Liberal Democrats in their election material – but 10 months later, almost half of the building still remains unoccupied.

However despite the oversupply of commercial premises in Eastleigh the Council will shortly be considering planning applications for a Hotel on Station Hill (Cordwell/Travelodge) and leasehold OAP flats at the Pirelli site on Leigh Road (McCarthy & Stone) – both of which will feature further retail units as part of the development.

So, the answer to empty shop units is…build more shop units?


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