Empty shops slowly being refilled
EMPTY shops in the heart of Cheltenham are slowly being filled as retail bosses begin to think out of the box to bring in more customers.
Charities, artists and temporary stores are starting to fill the empty spaces the recession has left in our high streets.
The Brewery filled one of its five vacant spaces for one night as it became an art gallery on Saturday night. The Awaken project aims at making creative use of the town's unoccupied stores.
Rebecca Turner, Liam Hart and Robyn Hill showed off their work for the evening, including pieces which focused on the human form, the relationship between and what occupies it, symbolism and gender issues and the impact of oil production.
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Opening blank areas to make use of is something the Beechwood Shopping Centre has also tried. It currently has 17 empty units, 15 of which are described as available.
However, centre manager, Owen Acland said several would become full soon as temporary Christmas outlets moved in.
Beechwood has had similar schemes running with artists from the university, The Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, charities and small businesses.
Mr Acland said: "We are always looking at ways to make our units more attractive and create more enthusiasm. Temporary shops or galleries can become a win-win situation, particularly if it is something that drives footfall, and it has always given us a good response.
"We have had workshops, university students exhibiting their work and the Echo's Fashion and Beauty Week use spaces along with charities."
The Regent Arcade has 13 empty units in its shopping centre following the opening of Little Italy, Oil and Vinegar and Kiwi.
Six months ago it had more than 20. The centre has invested in high-quality graphics in empty shops, allowed tenants to showcase stock and saw more than a two per cent increase in footfall when it allowed Cheltenham Town Football Club to sell merchandise before the team went off to Wembley in May.
Richard Ralph from the centre's management team said: "The key to keeping the arcade alive in tough times is to be creative."