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

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.
Lesley-Anne Kelly
Dundee shopping centres shown against bar chart depicting vacancy rates for latest update of the High Street Tracker.
How have the high streets and shopping centres changed in Dundee? Graphic by Michael McCosh.

We’ve been tracking the health of Dundee high streets since June 2023.

I got back out on foot recently to complete a fresh census, checking 11 high street areas and both the Overgate and Wellgate to determine the current level of vacant and occupied units.

Our latest census shows:

  • An increase in high street vacancy rates compared with June 2023, rising almost 3% from 15% to 17.9%.
  • A 4.1% improvement on the shopping centre vacancy rate, going from 29.9% in June to 25.8% now.
  • A particularly impressive change in vacancy rates at the Wellgate shopping centre, decreasing from 55.8% in June to 46.2% –  a 9.6% decrease.
  • Two properties that had lain vacant for more than three years have been occupied since our last update.

The picture today in Dundee’s streets

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.

Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx statues Dundee
Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx statues. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

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

The current vacancy rate across our high street areas is 17.9%, with the average across our two shopping centres sitting at 25.8%

The recent census marks a change in our most vacant street – moving from Castle Street to Commercial Street.

The vacancy rate for Castle Street has improved by 10.5% since June, down to 26.3%, whereas Commercial Street has gone in the opposite direction with an almost 10% increase in unoccupied units.

At the other end of the spectrum, Perth Road remains the street with the lowest vacancy rate at 8.3%. The vacancy rate on Perth Road has been relatively stable, with only a 0.1% decrease in the vacancy rate since we started tracking it in June 2023.

Food and drink is king

Food and drink units remain the largest proportion of the units on the high streets – at 35.1%. Half of the units on the pedestrianised Union Street are food and drink establishments.

Shopping comes in a close second for most common type of unit – at 32.3%. Just over 70% of units on Murraygate are occupied by shops.

What about the shopping centres?

Both the Overgate and the Wellgate have seen encouraging improvements in their occupancy levels since we began tracking them.

The Overgate has seen a modest decrease in vacancy, moving from 12% in June to 11.8% now.

The Wellgate however has seen a significant improvement. With a starting rate of 55.8% they’ve seen an almost 10% decrease, moving to a 46.2% vacancy rate.

Which spaces have changed?

We keep a log of all status changes we make to the high streets and shopping centres we track. The bubble chart below details the changes that have occurred since our last article in November 2023.

Some big changes to the high street include the former Groucho’s record shop on Nethergate being turned into a music bar retaining the original name.

Groucho's music bar in Dundee.
Former record store Groucho’s has reopened as a music venue in Dundee. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

The unit had been closed since September 2020 – lying empty for 3.2 years.

Another longer-term empty unit, the former Mestizo Indian Tapas restaurant on Perth Road, has since reopened and transformed into Babujee. While also retaining the Indian cuisine of its former tenant.

Nasir Hussain outside Babujee Indian restaurant in Perth Road, Dundee.
Nasir Hussain outside Babujee in Dundee. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

This unit, which has also hosted the Underworld Cafe had been unoccupied for almost 4 years prior to Babujee taking over.

Recently, a really positive change occurred on Castle Street with one of the longest standing vacant units being occupied.

The former Keiller’s China Shop at 7 Castle Street had been vacant for more than seven years, but has recently been transformed into a creative coworking and events space in an initiative run by Creative Dundee.

Dundee shop changes to look out for

There are a few significant upcoming changes to the Dundee retail landscape to look out for.

The Courier recently revealed that Wagamama had filed planning documents stating they intended to take over the former Mozza unit on Whitehall Street.

Another big hitter putting their faith in Dundee is retail magnate Mike Ashley. The Frasers Group acquired the Overgate Centre in Spring 2023. They intend to start work to replace the former Debenhams unit with a Frasers department store this year.

Frasers 'coming soon' hoarding at Overgate Shopping Centre in Dundee.
Frasers ‘coming soon’ boarding at Overgate Shopping Centre in Dundee. Image: Overgate Shopping Centre.

And that’s not the only change coming to the Overgate soon. Australian jewellers Lovisa recently announced they will be taking up the former Smiggle store  – opening later this month.

What is being done to help?

Dundee City centre manager Gaynor Sullivan said: “The city council is working closely with property agents and owners and we are seeing interest developing in a number of vacant units across the city centre, with planning applications submitted for several locations.

“The latest phase of the long-term City Centre Strategic Investment Plan was agreed by councillors earlier this year, with the next priority focus identified as the Eastern Quarter area.

“A £1 million programme of streetscape works in Commercial Street and Murraygate will also be taken forward to improve the environment and help us to address vacancies.

“The council has also supported Creative Dundee to open their new co-working space in Castle Street in their Hapworks project.”

Our high street matters

At The Courier we no longer simply want to track this data, we want to change it.

Today, we launch a new initiative – Dundee Matters – aimed at listening to the strongly held views of our readers, finding solutions to the city’s problems, and driving change.

Our first target for this project is Dundee’s ailing high streets.

You can find out more about Dundee Matters here.

Please take our Dundee High Street Survey to tell us what you think of your high street.

We’re also planning to host a high street summit at our Dundee office in May. If you would be interested in attending this please let us know by leaving your details at the end of the survey.


The project conducted an initial in-person census at the start in May and June of 2023. We then conducted further censuses in October 2023 and February 2024.

You can read the rest of our high street coverage here.

We need your help!

The Courier data team collects all the data manually in our high street and shopping centre trackers. We continuously update the data whenever we notice any changes but it’s possible we may miss something.

We appreciate all the support we’ve received for our trackers so far, and would love if you would like to help us keep it up to date.

If there’s anything you spot opening or closing you’d like us to know about, or if you have more accurate information on closing dates of units or what the last business to occupy a unit was, you can let us know using the form below.

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