Cowley Road retail shows its resilience in difficult times

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Image 1

No-one likes a high street with empty stores. The ‘vacancy rate’, the percentage of shops that are empty, or not open for business, is a standard indicator of retail health.

In November 2018, Cowley Road had 12 retail vacancies.

CoHSAT used Google StreetView and street surveys to find that in July 2023 there were 11 vacancies – one improved over 2018. It hasn’t been an easy time for retailers anywhere, so this result is perhaps surprising.

National trends from retail analysts the Local Data Company (LDC) , show an increase in vacancies in all sectors. If Cowley Road had followed the national trend for High Streets, it would have had 4 more vacancies rather than one fewer.

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It has clearly bucked the national trend and performed better than this.

Chart showing trends in Retail vacancies. 
High Street vacancies rise from 2018 11.5% to 2022 13.8%
Shopping Centre vacancies rise from 2018 13.6% to 2022 18.2%
Retail Park vacancies rise from 2018 7.1% to 2022 9.0%
GB Vacancy Rate 2018-2022 (Source: Local Data Company)

Possible explanations for this above average performance are: (1) Regional variations, some retail analysts note that the south has generally done better than the north; (2) the dynamic nature of Cowley Road; (3) the local population density with 40,000 people within a mile; and (4) the recent improvement in walking and cycling access, as most shoppers arrive by foot or bicycle (a 2017 survey shows about 75%).