1. ITV Report

West Midlands retailers have poor 'shop vacancy rates'

Shoppers in the Midlands Photo: ITV Central

New figures out today from the British Retail Consortium on UK high streets shows the West Midlands has one of the worst 'shop vacancy rates' in the country.

The national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.1% in April 2012.

The West Midlands had one of the highest vacancy rates, at 12.9%.

"Double digit declines in shopper numbers in April in almost every part of the UK and stubbornly high shop vacancy rates confirm how tough conditions are for customers and retailers."

"Essentially consumers' lack confidence, disposable incomes are still dropping and fewer people are shopping for anything that isn't essential."

– Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General

One in ten shops in the East Midlands lies empty, and there has also been a drop in the number of shoppers visiting the High Street, but the picture in the region is not as bad as elsewhere in the country.

The BRC quarterly report shows the number of town centre visitors between February and April fell by 3.7%, compared to the same period last year.

The East Midlands has a town centre vacancy rate of 10.2%.

Traders blame a continuing lack of consumer confidence, competition from the supermarket giants and out-of-town shopping centres, the growth of internet shopping and town centre parking charges.

The recent wet weather has not helped.

The market town of Heanor in Derbyshire has suffered considerably in the last few years, with many shops closing down.

Empty shops in Heanor, Derbyshire Credit: ITV Central

However, shopkeepers are working hard to attract shoppers back to the town centre.

Six months ago, a number of loveheart posters mysteriously appeared in the Market Place, urging local people to support their local stores.

The anonymous campaigner also set up a Facebook group called "Love Heanor".

More empty shops in Heanor, Derbyshire Credit: ITV Central

It now has six hundred members and traders say there has already been a knock-on effect on the town.

The Heanor Traders' Association has also applied for £100,000 of Government money under the Portas Review.

Retail guru, Mary Portas, known as Mary Queen of Shops, set out her vision for revitalising town centre trade in the UK in which 12 pilot towns would be able to bid for grants.

The town should find out if it has been successful by the end of the month.