We often hear of the stress that high street retail is going through because of out of town supermarkets/retail parks, the recession and on-line buying but here in Sefton we really do have an example of what happens when all these things (plus the advent of Liverpool One?) happen together.
The Strand is really suffering and a walk around it shows just how many empty units there are; I would guess it must be above 35% now. In February the national average for retail vacancies was just over 14% and back then Bootle was being recorded as being at over 25%.
The Strand was a 1960’s build shopping Centre some 4 miles or so north of Liverpool City Centre and it was enlarged and refurbished in the 1980’s if I recall correctly. But the last few years have not been kind to it and I hear that even WH Smith is about to pull out as its lease comes to an end.
The rear of the shopping centre has empty unit after empty unit and I have thought back to comments made by the now retired Planning Director of Sefton Council when he warned that the expansion of retail parks in Aintree, the rebuilding of Kirkby shopping centre and the advent of Liverpool One may have detrimental effects on Bootle’s Strand. It seems he could well have been right and we have also had a recession and a big take up of internet shopping since then.
I took the three shots below in the shopping centre recently. One shows units around the once busy but now closed T J Hughes Department Store, whilst the other two show how innovative use of vacant shop windows is being taken up to advertise Bootle’s new Free School.
What future Bootle Strand? As someone who works in Bootle and have done all my working life this is a sad situation and one from which I really do hope that shopping centre can recover from, but it is clearly going to be an uphill struggle.