There are not many American main streets, shopping centers or commercial districts without empty storefronts today. The economy and pandemic have been hard on existing retail businesses, and high rents are often prohibitive for those wanting to start a new store. In addition, some residential developments are required by mixed-use zoning to include ground-floor retail. This concept might have been great in boom times, but it has added to the inventory of unused spaces in many communities.

It turns out that the U.S. is not the only country experiencing an excess of empty storefronts, which is of course a threat to the viability of any shopping area.  Alex Schlagman of the London-based organization Save the High Street recently sent out an email about their new initiative called The Vacancy Partnership. “Most of the forecasts about vacancy rates this winter are terrifying,” he wrote. “But it doesn’t need to be that way. Together, we can turn the vacancy crisis into a catalyst for positive change.”

The purpose of The Vacancy Partnership is to foster cooperation among groups that may not be in good communication with each other: existing tenants, landlords, potential new business owners and those considering expansion, and local government.  They also invite “vacancy innovators, community champions, journalists, influencers and anyone else who cares about ending the vacancy crisis in the UK” to join in their efforts.

This is the type of multi-faceted effort that is needed.  Our street has a number of empty storefronts, and we’d like to get them filled soon. It’s also our goal to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. But it’s hard for our association of independent retailers to know where to start – most of the efforts to find tenants seems to fall to the landlords, some of whom don’t even live in our community.

The answer, according to Save the High Street, lies in collaboration among innovative market leaders working together to deliver high-impact, cooperative solutions. “Together, we can turn the vacancy crisis into a catalyst for rapid, positive change; helping high street entrepreneurs succeed every step of the way; repopulating and revitalising high streets and shopping centres for everyone.”

I hope that they are successful in reaching their goal, and that we can learn from their success. Who can you partner with in your community to help decrease vacancies?

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

Please note that there won’t be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog next week