More than one in ten high street shops standing empty
Figures published by the British Retail Consortium and footfall monitoring group Springboard showed that the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.3% in October 2012. This was the highest figure seen since the organisations began monitoring empty shops in July 2011.
The highest vacancy rates were found in Northern Ireland where 20% of retail space was empty. This was followed by Wales at 15.1% and the North & Yorkshire at 14.6%.
Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "This new high in empty shop numbers really sets alarm bells ringing. It's the worst vacancy rate since the survey began in July 2011 and confirms that financial challenges for both customers and retailers are far from over."
Footfall in the three months to October was 0.4% lower than a year ago but better than the 3.3% fall in the previous quarter. Whereas the high street saw a 0.9% drop in footfall over the quarter, out-of-town shopping centres saw a rise of 0.2% and other shopping centres an increase of 0.1%.
Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and Greater London were the only regions to show increased footfall while the hardest-hit locations were the East, the South West and Scotland where footfall was down by 4.1%, 4% and 3.9% respectively.
Robertson added: "It's a little more cheering to see footfall suffering less than the previous quarter, but shopper numbers were still no better than a year ago. The figures follow a similar pattern to our retail sales monitoring. September's cold snap drew the crowds stocking up on warmer clothing. But, while the Olympics appears to have brought people out on to high streets, that didn't translate into a surge in spending."
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