Jersey and Guernsey high streets bouncing back better than in the UK

  • ITV Channel's Richard Pallot spoke to Laura James from the University of Wales

High streets in Jersey and Guernsey are proving resilient and bouncing back better from Covid than in the UK.

In Jersey there are more independent retailers opening and fewer empty shops.

St Helier has recorded a drop in its high street vacant property rate, to just over half that seen in the UK. In the latest data gathered the vacancy rate in town fell to just 7.5% for Jan-March 2022, compared to 8.6% in the last quarter of 2021.

It also provides a separate covered shopping centres report, which looks at all 'covered areas with more than ten individual shops'. In St Helier, this includes The Parade, Liberty Wharf, and the markets. For the first quarter of 2022, this stood at a vacancy rate of 7.5%, compared to the UK's Shopping Centre vacancy rate of 19%.

The Les Quennevais shopping area vacancy rate has remained static at 10% compared to the UK's 14.1%. Les Quennevais has sixty-two commercial ground floor units, which represent around 12% of St Helier's core commercial area.

Business owner Claire Bethell opened her candle making shop in St Helier a few months ago and says she has been "blown away" by the interest.

"I don't know if it's where we are with location, there's a lot of people that cut through and walk past the shop. I think it's really nice to have something you buy yourself that's locally made."

Lorie Rault, Head of Retail, Jersey Business commented: "Our retail landscape is showing its resilience, despite two years of the pandemic, and the resulting increase in online buying. We've seen new openings this year, and the expansion of existing outlets. In addition, the plans from Le Masurier, to regenerate more than two acres of central St Helier (subject to planning approval), will provide a much-needed boost to the Broad Street area and bodes well for the future of the retail experience for customers and businesses.'

New stores are also bringing life and colour back to St Peter Port.

The Hope Store is run by a charity supporting children in Malawi. It only opened a month ago but some of its ethically made stock has already sold out

Owner Tom Herring says this is proof that physical stores can offer an alternative experience to online:

"It is easy to be in an industry and see it changing and going downhill and just think that’s the end but I think there are huge opportunities and in retail people want a more immersive experience. They will always want to touch things and hold things and see things so it is a great opportunity to provide a place for people to come in, to build a community and be together."

The return of the cruise ships is another factor helping to revitalise the area.

For Mazz Elliott, who opened a store in mid-March, it’s directly boosted trade:

"For me as a small business off island, it's a new reach of customer because of the the footfall, because of the positioning I'm getting new customers, cruise ship customers that wouldn't normally know about the business so for me it's been great."

Guernsey Retail Group says that the island is bucking the national trend with a number of new stores opening up in town.