One in five shops vacant

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Almost one in five shops in Derry is now vacant, new research has revealed.

A new study by Lisney, the commercial property agency, analyses retail vacancy rates in towns and cities across the North and compares them to last year.

One of the key findings is that Derry has an overall vacancy rate of 18.7% - that’s just below the NI average of 19% but well above the UK average of 11.4%.

Belfast, by comparison, fares the worst with a total vacancy rate of 23.1%, while Craigavon remains the town/city with the lowest vacancy rate of 9.1%.

Commenting on the research, one Derry city centre retailer said it merely underscored the fact that Derry’s traditional commercial heartland was “fast becoming a ghost town.”

The business owner - who didn’t want to be named - said: “We need a radical change of direction if we’re to stand a chance of ever turning this particular shopping district around. People need to realise that our city centre is under serious threat.

“Unless urgent action is taken, more and more shops will be empty by the end of this year.

“What sort of impression will scores of closed shops have on the hordes of people who we’re told will be visiting the city during next year’s City of Culture celebrations? We’ll be a laughing stock.”