A new report by Jersey Business and the Parish of St. Helier is aiming to paint a picture of the health of Jersey's high street by examining the number of empty and non-active properties.
The partnership has been in existence since June 2020, but the most recent report focuses on the vacancy rate in St. Helier during the first quarter of 2022 which runs from January to March.
In the UK, 14.1% of properties were vacant during the first quarter of 2022, 0.3% lower than the end of 2021. This was the second consecutive quarter of falling vacancy rates - a potential sign that the effects of the virus crisis on the high street are starting to subside.
St. Helier's high street vacancy rate also improved over this period, going from 8.6% to 7.5%.This is also lower than the same period last year, and the first time in a year that the rate has been under 8%. The report suggests that this decrease is due to a higher number of new openings, and expansions of existing businesses.
The St. Helier High Street data was created by using the latest Goad map available for Jersey. Goad maps are detailed street maps including individual buildings and their uses, and the local version is updated every three years.
Buildings outside of the accurate Goad map are not included in the data.
The data collection involves one physical count per quarter. This involves an actual walk of the town each quarter on a set day during the last month of that quarter to record accurate data on that day of all ground floor customer-facing commercial properties.
The same count criteria for commercial property as the British Retail Consortium is used to enable an accurate comparison with their quarterly report. No ad hoc changes are made to the count outside of this quarterly physical count.
Businesses which only take up second floor space and commercial properties that are not customer accessible, such as offices with no customers entering are not included in the count. Businesses which have been counted are categorised into sector by their SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) code - a four-digit number representing a certain industry.
According to Jersey Business, as retail enters a post-pandemic period of accelerated change, accurate data is needed to make informed decisions and seize opportunities. Vacancy data enables benchmarking against the UK to use as an indicator of health and emerging trends.
Locally, vacancy data can be used as a tool to encourage inward and on-island investment, as well as creating an up-to-date contact list for vacant properties in one place for the first time.
Pictured: The data includes a pie chart illustrating the length of vacancies in Jersey.
The visual nature of the data’s collation also helps it to be understood easily and gives a clear picture of areas in decline or success. Over time the data will provide insight into the mix of town use and sectoral contraction and expansion.
Jersey Business has also developed two more reports, which collate the vacancy data in other previously unrecorded key retail areas. The two new reports are for Les Quennevais and the covered shopping areas in St. Helier that are not included in the main St. Helier count.
In 2021, the Government of Jersey designated Les Quennevais shopping as Jersey’s “secondary retail area” as part of the bridging Island Plan.
Pictured: This area consists of sixty-two commercial ground floor units, which equates to 12% of the size of St Helier’s core commercial area.
As vacancy rates are a robust indicator of the health of the physical retail in a location, Jersey Business has now created a new report for Les Quennevais. They will continue to include Les Quennevais in the vacancy count during each quarter going forward.
Unlike the St. Helier and UK vacancy rates which both decreased, the Les Quennevais Q1 2022 vacancy rate remained at 10% (the same rate as Q4 2021).
Shopping centres, which are defined as ‘covered areas with more than ten individual shops’, are counted separately in commercial vacancy counts.
The vacancy percentage for St Helier’s shopping centres includes The Parade, Liberty Wharf, Central Market and Fish Market.
Currently standing at 7.5%, the vacancy rate of St. Helier Shopping Centres initially seems low compared to the 19% vacancy rate of UK Shopping Centres.
However, the St. Helier Shopping Centres vacancy rate has actually increased from 5% since Q4 2021, whereas the UK Shopping Centres has decreased from 19.1% in the same amount of time.
Over the next few years, Jersey's high street could begin to look dramatically different due to a number of transformation projects underway.
Pictured: The area in the heart of town will become known as Les Sablons, which means ‘the windblown sand’ and will respect the old harbour wall within the development.
Should it get planning permission, the most significant of those will be Le Masurier's proposed regeneration of more than two acres of central St. Helier.
Called Les Sablons, the plans contain a hotel with family self-catering options and homes, as well as approximately 10,000 sq ft of retail/commercial space.
Meanwhile, the transformation of the former BHS/USC building is almost complete, as are moves to turn the former Beghins shoe store into a French-style brasserie called Colmar.
With the help of future plans such as these, it is hoped that town will be able to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic, becoming a hub of activity once more.
Click here to read the recent high street vacancy report in full.
Express spoke to Brian McCarthy, Managing Director of Le Masurier, in depth about the plans for Les Sablons...
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