Trouble ahead for store vacancy rates
New figures have shown that the vacancy rate in UK shopping locations edged up in March.
Compiled by the British Retail Consortium and the Local Data Company, the new BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor shows that the rate increased to 12.2% in March from 12.1% in December.
The vacancy rate in high streets climbed to 12.3% from 12.1% in December while the rate in retail parks rose to 8.2% from December’s 8.1%. Meanwhile, the vacancy rate in shopping centres declined from 14.4% to 14.1% in the period.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said some businesses may not be able to re-open when lockdown ends.
She added: “With over three million retail jobs in the UK it is vital that as many firms as possible can start trading again once lockdown is lifted. While the Government furlough scheme, loans and business rates holiday have provided an essential lifeline for thousands of retailers, stores continue to face fixed costs such as rent, which threaten their existence. To protect jobs and ensure the economy is able to get back on its feet in the coming months, it is vital that the follows the lead of other European countries and supports rents.”
Looking at regional variations, the South West and Wales saw the largest increases in the vacancy rate at 0.6% and 0.4% respectively. Meanwhile, the North West experienced the biggest decline at 0.2%.
Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at LDC, said its data has shown that independent retail spaces have proved to be more resilient than high street chains during the last few years.
Looking ahead, she said: “Might we expect to see the agility of these businesses, as well as a move to more localised shopping, continue to boost this sector, or will the onset of the financial challenges presented by covid-19 overwhelm our independent retailers? With independents currently representing 64% of the total UK retail landscape, the impact on this corner of the sector will be hugely influential to the overall health of our high streets.”
The figures also reveal that the persistent vacancy rate for premises empty for two or more years was 5.3% in March.
Photo by Georgia Hawkins.
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