Best Western eyes empty high street sites as part of bullish UK expansion plans

Best Western is targeting empty high street shops as part of plans to double its presence in Britain over three years.

Rob Paterson, chief executive at Best Western Great Britain, told the PA news agency that the company was in talks over at least three sites which had been left empty by the recent high street crisis.

He revealed that the group was previously in the running for Edinburgh’s former House of Fraser, which was eventually snagged by Diageo as the location for its Johnnie Walker whisky experience.

Mr Paterson said the company would continue to look at opportunities on the high street as it aimed to expand the 260-strong portfolio of hotels to 500 sites by 2022.

“Despite the challenging conditions of the British high street, we are looking towards the high street for possible expansion, with our unique offering continuing to disrupt and capture the market share,” he said.

Britain’s high streets were gutted last year as record numbers of shops were left empty, according to Local Data Company research released in June.

Landlords have struggled to fill some units in the wake of high-profile collapses such as Maplin, Toys R Us and House of Fraser and store closure programmes at Debenhams, M&S and New Look.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that just under half of former BHS stores are still unoccupied three years after the retailer went into administration.

Mr Paterson added that he hoped Best Western would be part of regeneration efforts in troubled town centres as it rolled out the group’s new boutique brands Aiden and Sadie as well as trendy urban concept The Hoxton.

He said the expansion of these hotel collections represented an opportunity to work with councils to transform buildings which had fallen out of use.

The first UK branch of the new Aiden brand is set to open in the Cheshire town of Runcorn, where Best Western will redevelop a former government building which has lain empty for over a decade.

It comes as the UK’s tourism boom looks set to continue, with the pound hitting a two-year low this week.

Following 2016’s Brexit vote, weaker sterling prices drove a record number of overseas tourists to visit Britain in 2017 according to the Office for National Statistics.