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Vacant units in City of London almost double amid pandemic

Vacancy is now at its highest level in five years in the City, which reflects how the area has been impacted more by Covid-19 than the rest of London and Britain

The number of vacant units in the City of London increased by 47% from 174 at the end of 2019 to 255 at the end of 2020, according to new research by retail data consultancy the Local Data Company

This equated to an increase in vacancy rate in the City of 3.5% in 2020 compared to an average increase of 1.3% for Greater London and 1.6% for the whole of Britain. 

Vacancy is now at its highest level in five years in the City, which reflects how the area has been impacted more by Covid-19 than the rest of London and Britain, as city workers stayed home and footfall fell flat. 

According to the Local Data Company, many brands have had to “rationalise” their London estates, particularly in locations where footfall has declined significantly.

Some 54% of all closures seen in the City in 2020 were hospitality and leisure units, of which 83% were national chains. 

Amongst the most affected retail categories in the area included shirt makers, jewellers and convenience stores. 

Lucy Stainton, head of Retail and Strategic Partnerships at the Local Data Company, said: “The City of London has been dramatically hit given that the vast majority of the worker population, on which these businesses are almost solely reliant, went away overnight as the Government’s initial work from home order kicked in. 

“The fact that a significant number of retailers deemed ‘essential’ have chosen not to open in this location throughout various lockdowns, despite their ability to trade, is a further indication of just how low current consumer demand is in the City.” 

She added: “However, looking forward we might expect that once people are able to safely return to offices, the need, and demand, for this supporting economy will return just as quickly as it went away, presenting a real opportunity for agile operators especially in those key categories such as take away food shops, bars and restaurants.”

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