Number of empty shops rises in lockdown

The number of empty shops increased modestly in the past quarter during the government-enforced lockdown which saw the closing of all non-essential stores.

The quarterly BRC-LDC retail vacancy monitor revealed that 12.4 per cent of all shop units were vacant in the three months to the end of June, a slight increase from 12.2 percent in the first quarter.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said the rise was “modest as government support allowed many locations to survive lockdown”.

All types of shopping destinations saw vacancy rates increase, with shopping centres having the highest proportion of empty units, at 14.3 per cent, after rising from 14.1 per cent in the previous quarter.

High streets saw the vacancy rate nudge higher to 12.4 per cent for the quarter, from 12.3 per cent.

Retail parks, which have seen steadier footfall since coronavirus hit, reported the lowest vacancy rate, at 8.3 per cent, although this also represented an increase after posting 8.2 per cent in the previous quarter.

“Covid has accelerated many of the changes in retailing already under way. Online continues to grow and retail stores should also have a vital role in our communities, supporting jobs and other businesses which rely on retail footfall,” Dickinson said in a statement.

“The shuttering of too many shops on our high streets will threaten the vibrancy of town centres and damage local economies.”

The report also revealed that London saw the highest increase in empty units, rising to 9.1 per cent, as it was particularly hammered by the pandemic.

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The full impact of the pandemic on retail vacancy is not yet known

Local Data Company (LDC) head of retail Lucy Stainton said: “Since 2018, retail vacancy has risen steadily across GB, in part due to the widely discussed oversupply of retail property given changing consumer demands. Q2 vacancy results reveal the most significant quarterly increase since our records began in 2012. Despite seeing this initial jump, it is still too soon to measure the full impact of the pandemic as almost half of the non-essential retail units that were eligible to reopen following the 15th of June were still temporarily closed as of the 1st July.”

“Over the coming months, we are forecasting a spike in vacancy as the real fallout of the pandemic is felt. In the first three weeks of Q3 we have already measured a 0.2 percent increase, so we can see this will be a sustained trend. Towns which will be hit the hardest will be those with a vacancy rate higher than the GB average pre-COVID-19 and those with a low number of ‘essential’ retailers which would not have been able retain as much footfall during lockdown.”

“With the relaxation of planning permission announced by the Government, this is another trend we expect to increase long-term and will ultimately temper the increase in vacant units over time.”

Photo credit: Pexels,; Article source: The British Retail Consortium; the Retail Gazette


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