The last thing people want to see when they are visiting a town centre is empty units. They are often dirty, covered in out of date promotional posters and bring the whole area down. What most people do not appreciate is the complexities of why the unit is empty.
Positively Putney keep a register of vacant units which is updated on a quarterly basis. This process involves talking to landlords to understand why the units are not being filled. There are a number of reasons at play:
- Development landlords: They are either in the process of applying for planning permission, or they have planning permission but something else is holding up the development. This is the issue that we are faced with on the development that went to planning as ‘Levellers Court.’ They served notice to all apart from Brewers on Putney Bridge Road leaving a whole stretch on empty units.
- Absent landlords: these are the hardest to understand, they possibly live overseas and simply bought the property for its asset value. They do not care about the area and are happy to hold onto the property and hope it just increases in value. An example is the ‘Wahoo’ site that has been empty since at least 2014.
- Lease tie ins: when the tenant decides to stop trading but is legally contracted with the landlord until the end of their lease. The landlord will happily take the income from the previous occupier and the unit just stays empty. This is the case with the ‘Marks & Spencer’ site who still have another three years on their lease, they closed the store in 2018.
- Price Landlords: Commercial rental values have been over inflated within Putney for nearly a decade, however landlords would still like the level of rent they would have been able to get a decade ago. This means it looks like the unit has no interest whereas it is actually simply overpriced.
- Lease Negotiations take time: it can take a long time for a landlord and tenant to agree terms, and then renovate a unit. It might look like nothing is happening, but lots is behind the scenes.
Positively Putney have recently analysed spend and footfall data to understand what is happening in the market. The data shows that footfall in Putney has been steadily increasing and is now back to Pre-Pandemic levels. The footfall counts from December 2022 are slightly higher than the same period in 2019, and January and February 2023 are on par with 2019 levels. The even better news is that retail spend appears to be around 10% higher than the same period in 2019 (according to the Mastercard information with the GLAs spend adjustments with respect to Inflation and Mastercards market share growth). The spend index has an upward trajectory indicating that this spending is improving, and that Putney’s shoppers are not as impacted by the cost of living price increases. The increase in vacant units does not seem to be affecting overall footfall and spend at the moment. Putney is a thriving town centre with opportunities for growth across all sectors!