THE shop vacancy rate in Winchester High Street has more than halved in three years, according to recent figures.

Winchester BID's latest Business Barometer Report said that it's at five per cent down from 12.4 per cent in 2021 at the height of the Covid crisis. 

Last year, it was 6.2 per cent. Openings in the High Street over the last year include Mooch, Wenzel’s Bakery, Suave Owl, Claire's, NAAFI and John D Wood and Co.

The national picture shows a High Street vacancy rate of 13.8 per cent, nearly three times the Winchester figure. 

The BID's report said: “In mid-January 2024, the city centre vacancy rate covering the Brooks Centre, Colebrook Street, St George’s Street, the High Street, Jewry Street, Market Street, Middle and Upper Brook Streets, Parchment Street, St. Thomas Street, Southgate Street and The Square was 7.6 per cent (7.7 per cent at the start of 2023). 

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“The vacancy rate at the Brooks Centre is 19 per cent close to the national Shopping Centre vacancy rate of 18.2 per cent.

Hampshire Chronicle: Business Barometer Report

“The High Street vacancy rate has fallen further to five per cent (6.2 per cent a year ago). It is now at its lowest rate since January 2019 when it was 3.9 per cent. The High Street vacancy rate has more than halved having fallen from a peak of 12.4 per cent in January 2021.

“At five per cent, the High Street vacancy rate is also more than half below the latest national High Street vacancy rate of 13.8 per cent.”

The report also gave feedback on the Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market. It said: “The most numerous suggestions about the ways to make the market even more appealing to customers were: Look at what other Christmas Markets are doing especially those in Nottingham and Southampton. The council should ensure that there are no roadworks during the time of the Christmas Market. They make travelling around the city much more difficult.

“It should be made more cost-effective for local crafters/makers to hire space so that there are more handmade/unique products available and made by locals.

“The High Street is very busy during the day and dead at night; there should be some late night shopping including the Christmas Market and in the lead up to Christmas.”

Winchester BID executive director Paul Spencer said: “Given the ongoing impact of the cost of living crisis, high interest rates and continuing uncertainties, the results of the latest Winchester Business Barometer survey are very positive. This demonstrates the high levels of determination of local businesses to succeed despite a tough economic environment. The High Street commercial property vacancy rate of five per cent against the national high street vacancy rate of 13.8 per cent is a strong indicator of how well Winchester is performing and that the city is a successful business location.”