High Street

West country vacancy rates hits double-digits in 2020

The west country has seen the largest increase in retail vacancy rates in the UK, rising from 9.6% in 2016 to 11.2% in 2020, according to new data from Usdaw.

The trade union said in the past decade the number of people visiting high streets in the west country dropped by 22%.

The announcement comes after Usdaw raised the issue of the “ongoing retail crisis” at the 2020 annual conference of Labour South West, which took place on 15 and 16 February.

Last year 57,000 jobs were lost in the retail industry across the UK, and more redundancies have been announced this year already.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “2019 was the worst year for the retail sector since records began. In recent years we’ve lost household names like British Home Stores, Toys ‘R Us and Mothercare.

“At the same time, companies such as Debenhams, New Look and Marks and Spencer have been closing hundreds of stores.”

He added:“If any other industry was facing this level of upheaval, there would quite rightly be a public outcry and government action, but that is not the case in retail. That’s why we launched our ‘Save our Shops’ campaign.

“Shops and shopworkers are undervalued, but they are at the heart of our communities. Staff are the biggest asset for any high street retailer, so they must invest in the shopfloor workforce. Of course that means better pay, but it also means skills and training, job security, guaranteed hours and shift patterns that fit with people’s lives.”

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