The Vacant Shops Academy

“…an innovative but proven approach that can reduce empty shops numbers in your place and improve its mix of use types…”

2022-24 locations include…

Cheltenham, Aberdeen (Union Street), Crewe, Reading, Henley, South Gloucestershire (8 high streets), Monmouthshire (Chepstow, Monmouth), North Yorkshire (Richmond, Leyburn), Sunderland, Poole, Blaenau Gwent (Tredegar, Abertillery), and new for 2024: Rugby, Aberdeen 2 (Upper Floors Study).

The approach has 4 elements:

+ Audit – list your existing vacant units and any that might soon become so, and assess any business type gaps in your town or city centre mix to identify what would be good additions.

+ Engage – build and maintain strong relationships with agents and landlords as well as existing businesses so that you understand the back story of each vacant unit and its barriers to letting, and become a trusted point of contact to get updates when there are changes.

+ Encourage – the lettings process both via agents and landlords, and would-be occupiers, especially those on the target list, including ‘meanwhile…’ use* where that can help, and establish a role as a go-to for businesses looking to establish a presence in your place.

+ Promote – use your social media outputs (and traditional media where available and supportive) to share positive updates on progress with your communities, the property sector, existing businesses and would-be occupiers.

Image thanks to Zoe Campbell Photography

“You have done a great job Iain in keeping this on the agenda and inspiring others. We have to keep believing.” from Twitter

The approach can:

* help reduce the number of vacant units in your town or city centre,
* improve the mix of business types, and
* tackle the negative impact on the look and perception of your place that empty shops can have on residents, potential visitors and would-be occupiers.

It gives you:

* a better understanding of the real story behind your headline vacancy rate, and
* a clearer guide to the policies and projects your place needs to improve this key metric.

“The work we’ve done (and will continue to do) on vacant units has given a greater level of insight about our town and the opportunities and challenges we face now and in the future. Thank you for showing us the way with the ‘audit, engage, encourage, promote’ approach. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to tackle vacant units.” BID Manager on LinkedIn

It’s also:

* easily transferable, so that
* once learned and embedded your council, BID, town team or local group can run it yourselves. And that’s crucial to the ‘Academy’ ethos. Sharing this approach so that local #placemaking teams develop the skills to adopt and run it long term, rather than it be a task & finish consultancy project.

“Well done and thank you for creating The Vacant Shops Academy, you need to be in more high streets!

In June 2023, Robbie Nicholson joined The Academy as Research Associate to strengthen its ‘audit, engage’ work.

*The ‘Meanwhile…’ toolkit is a detailed 4-step guide to developing and running #popupshop projects.

To discuss how the ‘audit, engage, encourage, promote’ approach to reducing vacant unit numbers and improving the mix, and the ‘Meanwhile…’ toolkit, that have successfully been used in a number of locations, can work for your place, do connect via social media including @Vacant_Shops_Ac on Twitter or email to the address in the header.

“Good call to share your knowledge – so many towns need people like you…!” from LinkedIn

More follows…