Belfast Telegraph

38% of closed Woolies sites still vacant

By Clare Weir

More than 100 stores once belonging to defunct high street retailer Woolworths still lie vacant three years after its collapse - with more empty shops in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.

Northern Ireland has the lowest levels of occupancy of former Woolies outlets with 38% of the stores still left to find a tenant.

The region with the highest level of occupations is Yorkshire and Humber at 95%.

North west England saw the biggest improvement since January 2011, with 31% more stores now being used.

Meanwhile, Greater London saw occupations slow down, but still remains one of the best performers with just 8% left to be put to use.

Some 13% of the 807 former Woolies stores are empty, compared with 30% a year ago, according to a report by the Local Data Company.

Discounters (29%) and supermarkets (17%) have taken on most of the stores, but there has also been a rise in the number which have been demolished, from 1.3% in January 2011 to 8.4% this month.

Administrators sounded the death knell for Woolworths in December 2008, leading to several tranches of closures which left 27,000 people out of work.

The 38% Woolworths vacancy rate in Northern Ireland compares with just over 14% for the rest of the UK.

Last month it emerged that a discount retailer has occupied many of the premises vacated by Woolworths.

TJ Morris, which operates as Home Bargains, has acquired 30 former Woolworths outlets from the administrator and plans to purchase further stores directly from the landlords.

Home Bargains has opened new shops at the Kennedy Centre on the Falls Road in Belfast and in the Ards Centre in Newtownards.

The five Woolworths stores in Northern Ireland closed for good in December 2008 after administrators were called in.