First the bad news, writes David Burrow: More than one in 10 shops in Shrewsbury is empty.
Now the, well , not good news exactly. The slightly better news: things aren't as bad as they are in the rest of the West Midlands.
Shrewsbury, and neighbour Telford, have been less affected by the recession than other areas in the region, although the situation in the county town is getting slightly worse. According to the figures, 16.1 per cent of stores in the town are vacant – up 0.1 per cent on last year.
These might seem like a small figure, but let's not forget that 0.1 per cent is somebody's livlihood. It's people's lives. For that reason, this 0.1 per cent needs to act as a warning.
One of the reasons Shrewsbury may have escaped the full brunt of the recession is its wealth of indpendent shops. It is something the town is always keen to promote, especially at Christmas.
But the town centre is under threat from a number of directions. We all know about the ever-expanding Tesco store at Battlefield, the Sainsbury's expansion at Meole Brace, the new Waitrose store coming to Oteley Road and plans for yet another supermarket on Hereford Road. Nobody can seriously suggest that these behemoths, with their loss-leading offers and huge free car parks, will not pose a threat to Mrs Miggins's Pie Emporium.
And that's the other thing - parking fees. Many believe the existing charges at the council-run car parks are too high. It's a tough one. The fees, I believe, are fine if they encourage more people to use the park and ride buses and keep cars out of the town centre. But it is human nature for people to want to drive to their destination, get out of the car, do what they need to do and jump back in the car again. (It's relatively recent human nature. I'm not suggesting you'll find it in the works of Charles Darwin).
The redevelopment of the town's shopping centres offers some hope. It is encouraging to see an investment of this scale while the economic climate is still more Siberia than Club Med. But there are dangers there, too. Too many big names under-cutting local businesses will cause problems.
I am hopeful that Shrewsbury's special nature - its independent shops and quirky narrow alleyways just waiting to be discovered - will help it weather the storm.
But the 0.1 per cent should act as a forecast that the economic winter isn't over yet. Let's not do a Michael Fish and assume the hurricane will pass us by.