Shop vacancies remain low across South Oxfordshire

The number of retail units lying vacant in South Oxfordshire’s three market towns remains very low.

The annual South Oxfordshire Retail Vacancy Survey, a count of the number of empty shop units on a single day each year, took place in January and revealed that an average of just six per cent of retail units in Henley, Thame and Wallingford were vacant.

The low rate in South Oxfordshire compares very well to the national average, recorded by the Local Data Company, of 13.9 per cent of units vacant (measured in December 2013).

South Oxfordshire’s low shop vacancy rate of six per cent remained at the same level recorded in 2013 and marks the continuing efforts of businesses and councils to encourage people to visit shops in their local area, businesses to relocate to South Oxfordshire, and to attract visitors from elsewhere.

The biggest success story locally has been Wallingford which saw its vacancy rate fall from 11 per cent in 2013 to just nine per cent this year, with just 12 out of 140 town centre units lying empty.

The improvement in Wallingford has been credited to projects aimed at improving the look of the town, tourism events such as the Wallingford Food Festival, and the town’s impressive array of independent and destination retailers.

Since the survey took place in January the vacancy figure has fallen again with one more unit becoming occupied, while the outlook for the rest of the year looks very positive with the remaining 11 vacant shops all seeing interest from potential tenants.

Thame also reported positive news experiencing a one per cent drop in shop vacancies (from five per cent in last year to four per cent in 2014), with just seven out of 187 units lying empty.

With retail space at a premium in the town and high footfall on the main shopping street, Thame’s shops never stay empty for long with businesses keen to take advantage of this well regarded destination which plays host to a vast array of festivals throughout the year.

Thame’s loyalty card and infrastructure improvement schemes, such as new planters and better signage, have also helped to boost footfall in the town.

In Henley, while the vacancy rate increased slightly from four per cent in 2013 to six per cent in 2014, the town continues to perform extremely well with just 17 of the 268 retail units vacant this January.

Although there has been a slight increase in vacant units Henley continues to perform impressively with many initiatives, such as the Midsomer Murders walking trail and a scheme to improve the look of shop fronts, helping to bring more people to the area.

This year the Henley Town Team has also been working hard with local agents to attract new business, resulting in two of the empty units being occupied and high interest from potential tenants in the remaining 15 empty units.