Running a bookshop in Ramsgate for the last 25 years I am only too aware of the problem, but don’t see a solution to the problem of closing retail shops. I guess the problem is worse in seaside towns where the decline started earlier, sometime in the 60s with the coming of the package holiday abroad.
I only suffer from the latter in my bookshop as I look books up online when I price them now and make sure my prices are competitive.
My guess is that the out of town shopping centre will be a fairly short-term aberration soon to be made unviable by the internet, the only real exception being places selling food and services like having a haircut.
As far as our town centres go, this raises the problem of what you do with the shop buildings, I guess the out of town shopping centres will eventually be bulldozed and returned to farmland.
One solution is to fill the resultant residential property with benefit claimants and people who have histories as bad tenants so have very limited options relating to where thy can live.http://www.lawpack.co.uk/landlord-and-tenancy/commercial-leases/articles/article5459.asp
What they recommend is an interesting insight into some of the problems of empty shops.
5 tips for landlords on how to avoid tax on empty buildings
Here are some tips on how to get tax relief on your business rates:
1. Use a charity
As mentioned, leasing a shop or empty building to a charity can help you to avoid landlord tax in the thousands as charities pay no or reduced business rates.
2. Demolish the building
The reduced tax relief on business rates was nicknamed the “bomb-site Britain tax” as many landlords scrapped projects and demolished buildings to pay less tax when the levy was introduced. If the building is at the end of its useful life, this may be a way to avoid landlord tax.
Buildings that can no longer be occupied don’t pay business rates, but the ‘vandalism’ must be relatively dramatic. It can even include stripping a building back to its shell or taking the roof off. The other option to save landlord tax is to start redeveloping the building, but never finish it.
4. Intermittent occupation
Buildings that have been occupied for six weeks qualify for another three or six months’ tax relief from business rates when they are empty. To let landlords avoid tax, there are companies that are springing up which offer to occupy buildings on short-term leases. To pay less tax, the landlord will pay the tenant to occupy the building rather than the tenant pay rent to the landlord.
The pictures above come from the book I publish “Margate and Westgate With Birchington 1903-04” you can buy it online at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/margate_and_westgate_with_birchington_1903_04.htm
Looking at the picture above, click compulsively on it to make it big enough to read, I wonder what the famous Thanet Motorcycle was, I have never encountered one, has anyone else?
Back to the problem of shops, you can have shop buildings selling food where there is no or little internet competition, you can have other businesses in them where the profit margin is very large, betting shops are a good example here, you can have something subsidised by charity or government grants.
The problem though is that the main reason that people go to shopping centres is to buy goods at a reasonable price, the betting shops restaurants, barbers etc are there because the real shops are there, without them the shopping centres will die.
There is a very long way to go with this one, a tube of artists quality watercolour that costs me about £5.50 both in the local independent art shops and the multiples at Westwood Cross can be bought online at about £4 including postage.