Gloom as more empty Sheffield shops predicted

News: Latest from The Star.

News: Latest from The Star.

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YET more shops could soon stand empty in Sheffield, retail experts are forecasting.

Latest findings from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors show a seven per cent drop in businesses looking to rent premises in the last three months of 2012.

Business leaders in Sheffield agree demand is ‘weak’ - and predict more retailers could fold in coming months.

Robert Lane, chairman of the Sheffield Chamber retail forum, said: “Tenant demand is weak and, because of greater supply caused by further vacancies, rentals are still falling in certain areas.”

Gemma Roberts, insolvency practitioner at Ecclesall-based Wilson Field, warned the situation remains bleak - unless retailers adapt to changing habits such as the growth of internet shopping.

She said: “The retailers which are struggling have been slow to respond to changes in consumer demand, especially to internet shopping.

“Also, public confidence to spend continues to be low - everyone is cutting back.

“Another damaging effect to the high street can be bad weather and the recent snow will hit retailers hard.”

Simon Rubinsohn, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors chief economist, said: “The end of 2012 was yet another incredibly tough period for the high street, brought to a head by news of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops.

“Sadly, this downbeat picture doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.”

But Mr Rubinsohn added: “Significantly though, the last quarter did see demand for office and industrial space increase in Yorkshire.

“Although only time will tell, but it is encouraging appetite is gradually growing.”

The predictions come only months after The Star reported more than a quarter of shops in Sheffield city centre were standing empty.

According to the British Retail Consortium, 26.1 per cent of city shops were vacant, the sixth worst figure in Britain and a three per cent rise on the previous year.

Sheffield Council insists the figure was because of empty shops awaiting the Sevenstone development.

But 13.8 per cent of stores are still empty even outside the area covered by the scheme between The Moor, Pinstone Street and Barker’s Pool.

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