Post-pandemic retail recovery triggers big take-up of vacant Bath city centre shop units

April 28, 2022

Bath’s city centre commercial property market is bouncing back from the impact of the pandemic with retailers, retaurants and leisure firms opening new units, according to research.

Strong demand for units is coming from national and high-end independent retailers, breathing new life into the city centre, the Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council report shows. 

It shows 32 new lettings were completed over the past year with a further 16 properties now under offer. The take-up will generate more than £1m in new rentals for the financial years 2021/22 and 2022/23, the report says.

The council also has a further nine properties owned by its commercial estate department available for letting under its drive to bring vacant units back into use. These could generate a further £250,000 for the council’s coffers.

The highest demand has been from the food and drink sector, which was badly hit by Covid-related lockdown restrictions.

Independent Italian restaurant Floriani has opened in the former Coop Bank on Milsom Street, with upmarket homewares retailer Cream Cornwall taking the next-door unit, its first outside its home county.

Other recent openings include Robyn’s Yoga Studio and floral design studio Blomme, both on High Street and new and nearly new men’s clothes and accessories retailer Alfred, which has taken on a unit at 27 Walcot Street, adding to its existing shop in Bradford on Avon.

The report also shows the council reduced the rent arrears owed by tenants by 51% from £8.9m in April 2021 to £4.4m this month, with the increased funding available to put into frontline services.

B&NES deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development and resources, Cllr Richard Samuel, pictured, said: “Whilst the commercial market has been challenging due to the change in demand from the retail sector, the great location of Bath and proximity of a number of tourist attractions means we have seen strong demand from a mix of both high-end local retailers and national retailers too. 

“We’re committed to drawing businesses back to the city and supporting them following a tough couple of years. I was walking through the city centre this weekend and it was buzzing with plenty of people enjoying our bars, restaurants and shops.”

He did, however, sound a note of caution, saying uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic and the impact of high inflation could influence future trends.

“But our latest commercial lettings figures are an excellent indication of how our high streets are recovering.

I’m pleased we are able to play our part in supporting that journey for businesses,” he added.

Businesses can find out more about the council’s commercial property letting services at its hub at 15 New Bond Street, which is open Mondays to Thursdays. The building is available for use by local traders as a pop-up shop at weekends.

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