News | Published August 12 2019

Number of empty shops reaches highest level in four years

The government has been urged to act after new industry figures revealed the number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest level in four years.

Vacancy rates and footfall both fell in July, as high streets and shopping centres faced unprecedented challenges.

According to a survey by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard, the vacancy rate was 10.3 per cent in July, its highest level since January 2015.

Footfall also fell by 1.9 per cent in total, the worst July performance in seven years.

Despite footfall being down in total, retail parks attracted more visitors, indicating that high streets and shopping centres are dragging figures down.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director, explained that retail parks were beginning to successfully bridge the gap between convenience and experience.

"Consumer demand is ever-more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out of town destinations, where footfall rose by 1.2 per cent in July, reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap,” she said.

Experts have said that retail parks offer accessible shopping environments with free parking but also combine this with an enhanced experience that includes coffee shops and casual dining restaurants.

The BRC expressed concern about the rise in empty shops and called on the government to relieve the pressure on the burdened high street.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Currently, retail accounts for 5 per cent of the economy, yet pays 10 per cent of all business costs and 25 per cent of all business taxes. The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable.”

She added that the government should "immediately" freeze business rates, and fix transitional relief, which she argues “leads to corner shops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London."

During his bid to become prime minister, Boris Johnson unveiled a package of measures design to "save struggling high streets across the country."

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Authored by

Joshua Sandiford
August 12 2019

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