Retail spend has experienced something of a mixed bag recently with some high street traders like Next seeing reasonable increases in profits alongside the supermarkets while French Connection and John Lewis are manning the barricades in the face of worsening figures.
Overall the retail figures for August remain flat with traders looking towards a Christmas boost to lift them out of the mire.
The Homes and Communities Agency £3m initiative to rejuvenate 57 town and city centres is attracting plenty of criticism. The number of vacant shops has tripled and there seems to be little prospect of a take up in retail space in the near future as large city centre retail schemes fall victim to the recession.
Ian Fletcher from the British Property Federation recently said ‘First we had Hazel Blears’ craft fair solution and now we have £50,000 hand outs that are barely a drop in the ocean compared to the extent of the problem.’
The intention seems to be to fill empty shops with amateur art galleries and community cafés. That might not impress the owners of commercial cafés and galleries and £3m isn’t anywhere near enough to make a huge difference nationally but it might provide lots of small catalysts for arts and community groups to keep the high street a little more active until economic times improve.
This might not be much of a shot in the arm for the beleaguered owners of empty properties as they battle with empty rates bills but it will provide some benefit for the third sector.Provesta is working with an art collective to set up a network of community art galleries in the South Yorkshire region. More of that in another post.