EMPTY shops are an increasingly common sight on the high street, but Bournemouth is looking to spruce up its vacant units with new window vinyl.

The closure of M&S in April created a large void in the town centre, and it is not known what will fill the unit, only that it is unlikely to be just one retailer.

In the meantime, a bright new advertisement by Bournemouth Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) has been pasted over the blacked out windows.

Other empty shops in Commercial Road and Old Christchurch Road are also set to receive a similar treatment following conversations between landlords and the BID.

The new vinyl promotes Bournemouth and its retail offering and has been designed by local design and marketing agency Digital Storm.

Funding the initiative, the BID worked closely with M&S representatives to gain permission for the project.

Paul Kinvig, chief operating officer at the BID, said: “Using the empty shop front as a canvas for promoting Bournemouth’s excellent visitor experience, we want to encourage more people to shop, return to and stay in the town centre for longer.

“Whilst Bournemouth is bucking the national trend with increasing annual footfall figures, our ongoing activities will strengthen our area against the many challenges facing high streets nationally.’’

The window vinyl also features information about the team of town centre rangers, who act as a bridge between local businesses and the security services.

Councillor Philip Broadhead, cabinet member for economic growth, said window vinyl was one of the ideas discussed at a ‘high street round table’ a few months ago.

“It’s a good move for Bournemouth, and it’s an initiative that’s been tried and tested elsewhere,” he said.

He added: “While the high street has seen a five per cent decrease in footfall in the South West, and seaside towns have taken a big hit, in Bournemouth footfall has increased by 17 per cent on the previous year. And it has been increasing for the third year running.

“However, that doesn’t mean shops aren’t closing as stores like M&S and House of Fraser are affected by national conditions.

“We’re going to capitalise on footfall so we don’t have more shops closing.”

Commenting on other projects planned by the council and Bournemouth Town Centre BID to boost the high street’s fortunes, he said: “The BID has a plan to bring the Metropole Market to Westover Road, and we’re progressing with the refurb of Beale Place.”

Ward councillor David Smith said: “I am hopeful that some suitable alternative will come forward to fill the vacant M&S unit. I’m positive about the vinyl, and believe they will improve the townscape.”

“I encourage landlords, when they leave shops empty, to make them tidy and presentable for people passing by,” he added.