NORTH Wales-based frozen food retailer Iceland has been the biggest buyer of former Woolworths stores – but a survey shows that seven out of 10 are still empty more than six months after the last of the shops closed their doors.
Research by the Local Data Company found that 560 of the 807 ex-Woolworths stores have still not been taken over by other retailers – 69% of the collapsed retailer’s portfolio.
Many of the 247 that have been taken on are now discount stores or pound shops.
The Daily Post reported last month that more than half of North Wales’ former Woolworths stores were standing empty six months after the retail giant was placed into administration.
And the lion’s share of the premises that are occupied in North Wales have been acquired by the Original Factory Shop and bargain chain B&M.
Woolworths had 17 stores in North Wales, but while some have been snapped up others in Denbigh, Colwyn Bay, Abergele, Holyhead, Wrexham, Flint, Barmouth, Caernarfon, Bangor and Holywell remained vacant.
Administrator Deloitte has struck a number of deals to sell on stores, with the largest being the sale of 51 sites to Deeside Industrial Park-based Iceland in January. Iceland said the move would lead to the creation of 2,500 jobs.
Around 180 ex-Woolies store leases have been sold or assigned nationally, generating an estimated £50m, while 240 leases have reverted back to the landlord – leaving Deloitte with 387 still to shift.
The research from the Local Data Company analysed every former Woolworths shop and showed just 31% are now occupied by other retailers.
The bulk of the other Woolies store takeovers are by discount stores and only a handful at a time have been taken by mainstream high street stores, such as WH Smith, Tesco Express and Waitrose.
Rob Alston, retail partner at property specialists Cushman & Wakefield, said the demise of Woolworths has compounded UK high street trading woes by seeing more than 800 prime retail locations become vacant at once: “Virtually every town in the country has been affected.
“The fact that only about 20% of the Woolworths stores have been sold by the administrators says a lot about current retail demand.”