Shops in Norwich have outperformed the national picture on the high street, with footfall up and shop vacancy rates down, despite difficult trading conditions.
This is the result of the retail monitor survey carried out by Norwich City Council, which also highlights the importance of the city’s many independent businesses.
The survey, which was carried out in October this year, provides a snapshot of the retail sector both in the centre of Norwich and its local and district areas (such as Riverside Retail Park and the shops on Unthank Road) and is generally carried out every year by the council.
A report on the survey, which will be published in the new year, shows:
- The percentage of vacant available shop floorspace in the city centre is now 12.2% - a significant decrease on the 14.5% in July last year.
- The percentage of vacant units has also decreased, from 14.1% in July 2021 to 12.6% in October 2022. This compares favourably to the decrease in vacant units that has taken place nationally – which was 0.4% (from 15.8% in 2021 to 15.4% in 2022)
- Footfall has increased and returned to pre-pandemic levels.
- Public realm improvements, such as Hay Hill, are designed to enhance shopping and leisure time in the city and make it easier for people to get around Norwich and enjoy their time here.
- Vacancy rates in the ten existing district sectors have decreased significantly, from 9.8% in July 2021 to 5.6% in October this year.
- Vacancy rates in the 28 local centres have also decreased from 12.7% to 7.1% over the same period.
Councillor Mike Stonard, portfolio holder for inclusive and sustainable growth at Norwich City Council, said: “This is extremely positive news for the city after what has been a difficult time for businesses.
“Norwich is a fantastic shopping destination, which is home to both big brands and a wide range of excellent independent retailers. Despite the challenges to the retail sector both nationally and locally, our report shows just how resilient shops in Norwich are and just how loyal customers have been.”
Continued investment by both Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council into public spaces in the city, such as planned improvements to Hay Hill, is also designed to help the retail sector, making Norwich a more enjoyable shopping destination people can navigate with ease.
Despite shops doing well overall, the amount of shop floorspace in the city centre continues to decrease – by nearly 6,000 sqm between July 2021 and October 2022. A reduction of 2.9%. The total number of retail units also reduced from 971 in July 2021 to 947 in October 2022. But rather than being lost to residential space or being demolished, these areas are diversifying – with many turning into leisure venues.
And since the last retail monitor survey, there has been an increase in the amount of floorspace under refurbishment or construction, showing companies are investing in Norwich. Currently 13 shop units (4,108sqm of floorspace) are under construction in the city – compared to 5 units in March this year and 7 units in July 2021.