The new occupants of some Woolworths stores have breathed new life into the streets on which they’re located, but those which are still empty are likely to remain that way

It’s now 18 months since Woolworths closed its doors for the last time, yet over 300 of its stores remain empty according to research from the Local Data Company. And after the immediate gold rush when the general merchandise discounters and the supermarkets piled in to get their pick of the stores, the flow of deals has slowed to a trickle.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some interesting deals still hapenning and actually freshening up the shopping streets they’re on. If I think of the London Woolies I’m familiar with, Brixton’s shopping offer has been lifted no end with the arrival of H&M in the former Woolworths, which had been empty for a long time, while down the road, down-at-heel Camberwell has also benefitted after the former Woolies, which had first been taken by 99p Stores, has now been taken on by Peacocks.

But that’s little consolation to people in the 300 locations where the Woolies is still vacant and the unfortunate reality is that if no retailer has come along to take it yet, there’s probably a good reason. There will be some in good locations which are too big for most retailers’ requirements, but many of those left are either off pitch or are located in the land that multiple retail forgot.

By that, I mean the sort of stores located on suburban parades or edge-of-town housing estates, locations where Woolies was the only multiple retailer and changes in retailing have reduced the requirement for multiple retailers to be there even further. Some of them have been snapped up by supermarkets for their convenience formats, but if they haven’t yet, it will have to be either independents or maybe even alternative uses in the public or not-for-profit sectors that they end up going to.