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“Portas Pilots” suffer one year on 29 May 2013

The ‘High Street Champions Scheme’ fronted by renowned retail redhead Mary Portas has seen more shop closures than openings one year after launching.

Overall there were more shop closures than new openings – 95 in total, with approximately 700 shop units closing and less than 600 opening in place.

Research carried out on behalf of the BBC by The Local Data Company has found that ten of the 12 government-funded towns have seen a fall in the number of occupied shop units.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, said: “No one should be surprised by the lack of a sudden turnaround in the fortunes of the Portas Towns.

“Retailing is undergoing the most fundamental structural changes in its history and therefore a mere year to respond and significantly change what has declined over 20 years is not enough.

“Add to this the Internet, out of town retail centres and supermarkets and you have the ingredients for the fiercest of storms which we are now in the midst of.”

The “Portas Pilot” was created to develop innovative methods of increasing consumer support for local shops.

The 12 towns were awarded a share of the £1.2m High Street Innovation Fund, government support and access to Portas’ retail knowledge.

However, there were some positive signs, with shop vacancy levels falling in seven of the 12 towns chosen for the scheme.

The pilot towns are Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Greater Bedminster, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Nelson, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees and Wolverhampton.

The number of vacant shops decreased in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Liskeard, Bedminster, Margate, Dartford, Bedford and Wolverhampton, suggesting new businesses have arrived and populated previously empty ones.

Market Rasen, Nelson, Stockport, Croydon and Stockton-on-Tees all had more vacant shops, which can be seen as boarded-up or empty units.



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