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Investigation

Dundee city centre: See how the retail unit vacancy rate has changed

The Courier data team have been tracking the activity of the Dundee retail sector since June. This latest update shows how things have changed since then. reports.
Lesley-Anne Kelly
A 3D map of Dundee city centre shops with red and blue colours used to indicate empty and occupied units

In June, The Courier data team launched a series of articles tracking the health of the Dundee retail sector.

To do this we got out on foot with a red clipboard and a printout of a spreadsheet.

We walked the length and breadth of our high streets and shopping centres and marked off the vacant units and the occupied units.

The first census formed the foundation for our high street and shopping centre trackers. Since then, we’ve monitored retail closures and store openings to maintain the data.

It’s now been four months since we began tracking the movement of units and we’ve just completed our second census. While it’s not all good news, there are glimmers of hope for the sector.

Our latest census shows:

  • A small increase in the vacancy levels across the high streets. With Perth Road overtaking Union Street to be the street with the fewest vacant units.
  • A decrease in vacancy rates in the shopping centres with the Wellgate showing a 5.8% fall since we launched.
  • Businesses have taken up spots in units that previously had been closed for over two years.
  • Unfortunately there is no movement in the longest standing vacant units. The former Victoria Wine on Reform Street has now been vacant for around 14 years.

The picture today

Our high street tracker maps out eleven key high street areas – Castle Street, Commercial Street, Crichton Street, Exchange Street, High Street (including the City Square area), Murraygate, Nethergate, Perth Road, Reform Street, Union Street, and Whitehall Street.

Whereas our shopping centre tracker looks at the Overgate and the Wellgate.

The current vacancy rate across our high street areas is 17.7%, with the average across our two shopping centres coming in at 28.1%. This is a slight increase for the high streets, which started off at a 15% vacancy rate, and a decrease for the shopping centres which started out at 29.9%.

When we launched the project the street that held the title of lowest vacancy rate was Union Street.

However with the closure of popular vegan café Serendipities, Union Street has now fallen into second place, with a vacancy rate of 7.7%. Which is only slightly higher than the new winner – Perth Road (7.2% vacancy rate).

Food and Drink units make up more than a third of the units we are tracking across the high streets – with 129 of the 361 units, with shopping a close second with 117 units (32.4%)

The situation in the shopping centres presents a mixed bag. Although the overall vacancy rate stands at 27.3%, it marks a slight improvement from the 29.9% rate observed at the launch of our shopping centre tracker.

Many readers may be surprised to discover that a significant portion of this improvement stems from new businesses placing their trust in the Wellgate. Its vacancy rate has decreased from 55.8% in June to 50% now.

In recent months we’ve seen several new business openings in the Wellgate, including Rainbow Ever, a rolled ice cream parlour opening in October, and trainer store Dundee Sole putting their imprint on the Wellgate in September.

Owner Kris Boyle stands in front of his new shop in the Wellgate shopping centre
Dundee Sole owner Kris Boyle in the new shop in the Wellgate. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

 

How have things changed?

We keep a log of all changes in status of units in the high streets and shopping centres.

Since we launched in June, 17 units have gone from vacant to occupied…

…and 11 have flipped from occupied to vacant.

Two businesses – Ramsdens and Pandora – appear in both categories as they moved premises.

The bubble chart below shows the units that have flipped colour in our maps in the last quarter.

Some of these changes included turning over units that had lain vacant for several years.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a few units were swiftly taken up.

Mi Italian Coffee replaced Café Sicilia on Perth Road within a year of the previous café’s closure.

Candylicious on Murraygate holds the record for the fastest turnover, transforming the former Clarks shoe shop in less than a month.

Are stores still closed long-term?

The former Victoria Wine on Reform Street retains its title as the longest vacant unit in the city centre, with no changes in the league table.

The former off licence has now sat empty for around 14 years.

Our business editor Rob McLaren recently did a bit of digging into some potential reasons for the prolonged vacancy.

The chart below shows the longest vacant units across the eleven high street areas.

Pandora has taken over the unit once occupied by the stationery chain Paperchase, bringing good news to the Overgate.

Although this is due to the brand moving their High Street store and leaving behind a new vacant unit there.

Pandora has opened at the Overgate Shopping Centre. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

Frasers will take over the largest unit in the Overgate, which is the former Debenhams department store, marking the most significant retail news in Dundee.

The unit’s transformation from red to blue on the floor plan won’t happen soon, as work isn’t scheduled to start until late 2024.

What’s being done to help?

Hapworks – a new initiative led by Creative Dundee recently announced that they are working in partnership with Dundee City Council to identify a vacant unit and transform it into a viable space for Dundee creators.

Dundee council leaders have called on the government to provide funding to drive city centre regeneration. The plan involves redeveloping extra retail units and offering tax incentives to facilitate the transformation of these buildings.

Where can I see more?

We will continue to track spaces opening and closing on the streets within our tracker area and the shopping centres.

Access our Dundee high street trackers for up-to-date details on eleven areas, complete with 3D unit maps.

Additionally, explore the Dundee shopping centre tracker for interactive floor plans of Overgate and Wellgate.

We manually collate all the data in our trackers and this article, as outlined in the article. As a result, there is a possibility that something might have been overlooked.

If you have any corrections or any information you would like to share with us please get in touch at datateam@dcthomson.co.uk

 

 

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