Preston’s 25 empty shops and street of shutters – what business owners say is needed for the city to thrive

“There’s not much left is there”

Nearly all of the shops on the left hand side of Friargate are empty

“There’s not much left is there,” one shopper can be heard saying to her partner as they shelter from the elements, deciding where in Preston they are going to go next.

The city has seen a number of big businesses leave over the years. Some, such as Debenhams, are no fault of the city. But the former department store remains a ghost town since its closure in 2021.

Other big gaps on the high street include Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge, which also closed last year. British Home Store, or BHS, hasn’t been occupied in nearly eight years.

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LancsLive counted 25 empty stores when taking a stroll around the city on a cold, wet Thursday afternoon. A walk down the top half of Friargate saw nearly all the shops on one side of the road closed with shutters down.

And while new ventures open across the city, with food and drink chains such as Revolution, Slug and Lettuce and Mowgli all opening, independent businesses tell us that it’s not enough to stop people from simply hopping on a train to the larger neighbouring cities of Manchester and Liverpool. It is a problem which will always exist, given the attraction of the North West hubs, but one that could be lessened, we’re told.

Jade Barson owns Green Pheasant Gifts on Winckley Street, slightly away from the hustle and bustle of Fishergate. She believes that cleaner streets are the way to entice shoppers to spend more time in the city.

She said: “I know Preston BID and the council do clean the streets a bit, but they’re so dirty. It puts people off from coming, especially when cities like Manchester are cleaner.”

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