Throughout the Wyre Forest area there are signs that the economic recovery is continuing, as far as commercial property is concerned, but perhaps not at quite such a pace as seemed the pace several months ago.
The incentives being offered by the government and the local council including rate relief and grants to improve shop fronts have undoubtedly instilled confidence into those taking on new premises.
In particular, they have encouraged small traders to take on premises and either start new businesses or expand existing ones.
Some may say that this creates false security for these businesses, but without this helping hand it can be argued that some would not even be able to survive the first year. Many businesses which have taken on premises know that it does take time for a business to build up, such that they cannot only make a living but also cover the overheads of a new rented property.
The incentives have undoubtedly formed the basis of the recovery and we know of several instances where even with these incentives having been claimed, trading has been tough until they’ve become established.
Even with such incentives being available, regrettably the occupancy of shops in Worcester Street, Kidderminster, does not seem to be improving and with the recent closure of the Edinburgh Mill, the decline of retailing in this part of the town has not yet been reversed.
The proposal to open up Worcester Street to traffic is still some way off and although this alone will not be sufficient to rejuvenate this area it will be a help. The opening of the 99p store in the Swan Centre has improved footfall and when walking through the Swan Centre where there are a number of small retail outlets, this centre does seem to be returning to being busy with shoppers.
A further encouraging sign we have found recently is that enquiries for offices seem to be on the increase and some offices which have been vacant for over a year are now being let to companies who are expanding.
There is still little demand for large office suites and the trend for these to be converted into residential accommodation is continuing. This move, if supported by planning officers, will help the town centre in breathing life into parts which have a large percentage of un-occupancy and should also hopefully encourage retailers to establish in the parts of the town where they can see there will be a demand from town centre residents.
As we come towards the end of the tourist season retail premises in both Stourport and Bewdley seem to be surviving and although many shops had hoped for a good trading season after last year’s disastrous wet summer, those that we have spoken to have been encouraged with trading levels but not to the extent that they had hoped for.
Free parking on allocated days arranged by Wyre Forest District Council has helped and as the build-up to Christmas soon starts, free parking should help boost trading for these shops.
Another encouraging sign of the recovery is the increase on the letting of small industrial units.
On Hoo Farm Industrial Estate, which we always regard as being a good indicator of the industrial market, the take-up of empty units has been good, with five units having being let recently.
There still seems to be a reluctance in companies overstretching themselves in purchasing their own property at the moment, although as more properties come available, viewings are on the increase.
The mixed use development in Stourport Road, Kidderminster, is now gathering pace and as launches of residential and commercial property start, this development is seen as being one of the most important improvements to the area that has been seen in recent years and hopefully will bring Wyre Forest area to the attention of companies throughout the West Midlands as promotions by developers start.
Let’s hope that the recovery continues and that the Wyre Forest area returns to the prosperity last seen in the 60s and 70s with the carpet industry.