The Local Data Company (LDC) have named Wandsworth as the third-worst town centre for shop vacancies. It has become a depressingly regular story from them and a matter we’ve raised with them several times before.
Their argument is that shops are empty and, therefore, they are reflecting the actual position.
However, this ignores the wider context. In the case of Wandsworth, as we have pointed out to them several times, the large numbers of vacant units are largely a result of a planned redevelopment of the Southside shopping centre.
The shops are not closed because Wandsworth is in “a spiral of decline” as their report might imply, but in preparation for a multi-million pound investment.
Sadly, LDC have chosen not to include this sort of information with their data; so their product is less than accurate and a successful town centre is unfairly tainted.
Of course, we aren’t the only ones to suffer this. A quick Google reveals that Stockport, named as the worst ‘large centre’ felt the LDC report was “at best confusing and at worst inaccurate”.
The second worst large centre, Nottingham is in the same position as Wandsworth, with units empty ahead of redevelopment.
I’m sure there are many more who feel unfairly treated.
You might choose to blame the media for sensationalising the facts. However, when the originator of the data fails to provide the context despite being fully aware of it (when I first contacted them they suggested he would “commit to work much closer with” us… if we were a client) then it’s not that surprising that headlines like “spiral of decline”, “dying high streets” or “future looks bleak” are associated with town centres that have a bright future.
Worse still is the timing. Wandsworth is unfairly tarred as a failing centre just before redevelopment, exactly when people should feel encouraged to invest in Wandsworth with confidence.
Clearly there are some town centres that are declining, that is the nature of retail business and shopping habits. However it’s disappointing when a those with a bright future are lumped in with those that are failing.
Unfortunately, for us and the other centres in a similar position, it seems the Local Data Company aren’t that interested in applying local knowledge to their products.