Empty retail site makes £656k at auction

The value of commercial property may be falling but it was not evident last week, when a vital shopping retail site in Shaftesbury sold after a spirited online auction.

The empty Budgens supermarket on Bell Street, which has stood empty for four years, sold at auction for £656,500. The guide price was £580-£620k.
There was a three-way battle for the site lasting nearly two hours, in which 117 bids were made. Most pushed the price up by £500 increments but at one stage the bids were rising at £5,000 a time.

The eventual buyer was Sussex-based businessman Richard Whittemore, whose family business Elite Garages owns a number of petrol stations, workshops and a wholesale tyre operation in 18 locations in the south, including Salisbury.
Some of his service stations have post offices and car washes, while a station in Cornwall even has a drive- through pasty service.

He intends to open a large Spar-type convenience store in the old supermarket, with a car workshop and servicing operation. Other outlets may be added but there will be no petrol pumps on site. “It will be a small village concept,” he told This is Alfred radio in Shaftesbury.

The check-out aisles and tills are still in place on the ground floor, with offices and staff facilities upstairs. There is also a stock warehouse. The conversion work will take six months to a year, said Mr Whittemore, but is unlikely to face serious planning issues as there is no change of use – North Dorset District Council advised administrators BDO in November 2018 that the ground floor frontage on Bell Street and car park must remain as commercial. Residents in West Shaftesbury will also welcome a food retailer closer to home.

Property investment company K/S Focus, which had been trying to offload the site since Budgens went bust. But while the price achieved was better than expected, K/S still suffered a thumping 84% capital loss on the property, having bought the site for £4.1m in 2006.
The fall in value confirms what experts have been predicting since the pandemic kept people at home and accelerated the trend to online shopping.

The Shaftesbury supermarket was built in 1988 and was occupied by Gateway/ Somerfield for two decades. The store then changed its name three times in eight years, becoming a Co-op and finally Budgens before the latter went into administration in March, 2017.

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