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High Street

Shop vacancies at highest rate in four years

The number of vacant stores across the UK’s high streets has hit the highest level in over four years.

According to the latest figures from Springboard and the BRC footfall and vacancies monitor, the national town centre vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, a slight increase on the previous quarters rate of 10.2% and the highest since January 2015.

Additionally footfall during the four week period ending 27 july declined by 1.9% compared to the same point last year when it declined by 0.9%. This is the worst decline for July since 2012.

This was partly made up due to a decline of 2.7% in high street footfall Following from the increase of 0.3% in July last year and a 3.1% fall in shopping centre footfall.

Helen Dickinson, chief-executive of the BRC said retailers had faced a “challenging environment” adding that “sluggish” sales growth and declining footfall also contributed to the rise in town centre vacancies.

She said: “High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty store fronts. If the Government wishes to avoid seeing more empty shops in our town centres then they must act to relieve some of the pressure bearing down on the high street.

“Currently, retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of all business costs and 25% of all business taxes. The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable. We need an immediate freeze in rates, as well as fixing the Transitional Relief, which leads to cornershops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights director, added: “Some of the -2.7% drop in high street footfall was a consequence of a strong comparable of +0.3% last year when we had a continuous period of hot sunny weather, but for shopping centres – with the -3.1% drop being as almost as severe as the -3.4% drop in footfall last year – the weather clearly has less impact on footfall than the challenges created by the ongoing structural change in retailing.

“Indeed, the ongoing challenges faced by bricks and mortar destinations is reflected in the rising vacancy rate, which has increased in every quarter since January 2018 and now sits at 10.3%.”

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