City spending remains 'robust' despite empty shop space doubling

Shoppers out in force wearing masks in Norwich city centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Shoppers haven't been deterred by the loss of some major brands, it seems - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Empty shop space in the city has more than doubled since the pandemic - but it doesn't appear to be putting shoppers off. 

A report by Norwich City Council shows vacant floorspace has increased from 5.5pc in 2019 to 14.5pc. 

In terms of units, this has increased from 10.1pc to 14.1pc.

However that is still below the national average of 15.8pc. 

Councillor Mike Stonard, portfolio holder for inclusive and sustainable growth at Norwich City Council, said: “We understand this has been a really difficult time for businesses in the city, especially those that rely on footfall, but despite a reduction in retail floorspace and an increase in vacant units, Norwich has demonstrated that it is still a robust city and a thriving retail centre.

“Footfall has increased since the lifting of restrictions and the city council will increase its monitoring of the retail sector and continue to provide help and support to businesses, as it has done throughout the pandemic, moving to consider policy response if needed.”

The data reveals that the number of folk heading into the city remains high - with month-on-month data showing that footfall increased 52.4pc ahead of the average of 24pc. 

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For the East of England as a whole this figure also stands lower at 28.8pc. 

It comes after the city saw a huge boost back in April when footfall rose 444pc the week restrictions were lifted. 

At the time 50,000 people flocked to the city - up from under 10,000 the week before. 

And the city council's Retail Monitor Report also shows it's not just the city centre which is thriving. 

Local and district centres, such as the shops on Sprowston Road/Silver Road or The Larkman have also remained vibrant and, on average, have a lower vacancy rate than the city centre with several neighbourhood centres having no vacant units at all.

This suggests they are offering a good range of services and that during the pandemic more people shopped locally.