The number of empty shops in Northampton’s main shopping street has reached a new high, latest figures collected by the Chron reveal.
Each year, the Chronicle & Echo carries out a survey of the town centre to see how many shops are standing empty.
Research this year showed that Abington Street, Northampton’s main shopping area, had a total of 16 empty shops, compared to 11 last year.
The figure was the highest recorded for Abington Street since the Chron launched its town centre health check back in 2009.
The leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) admitted having so many empty shops in the town’s flagship street was disappointing.
He said: “It’s a concern for us whenever any shops are empty in the town centre and we work as hard as we can to make sure we do everything we can to keep the town alive and prosperous.
“That is difficult in the current economic climate, but we’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”
The figures for Abington Street represented an 18 per cent vacancy rate.
Across the entire town centre, the vacancy rate was 15 per cent, with 68 of the town centre’s 465 shops standing empty.
Councillor Mackintosh said many of the empty shops in Abington Street were caused by the departure of national stores, such as Game and Julian Graves.
He added: “The national economic situation is obviously being reflected in Northampton, but what we can do is try to encourage more shoppers into Northampton by doing things like reducing car parking charges, which we have already done.”
Aside from Abington Street, some other parts of the town performed well in the survey with St Giles Street, the Grosvenor Centre and Market Walk all recording fewer empty shops than last year.
Despite the number of empty shops in some parts of Northampton causing concern, some brave business owners are still expanding.
The owners of fashion store, Dychurch Lifestyle, moved from their base near Fish Street to larger premises in St Giles Street in October.
Sarah Partington, who runs the store, said the decision to move into a shop opposite the Guildhall which had been empty for a number of years, had paid off, despite trade in the town centre being difficult.
She said: “We opened here so we would have a more prominent shop and it’s going really well. The whole town is generally really slow, but we’re surviving.”
Reflecting on the troubles facing Abington Street however, she said the firm would never move there, adding: “It’s a completely different kind of customer there, a huge difference. It’s much better for us to be in St Giles Street.”