Shop vacancies up as high streets outperform shopping centres
Shop vacancies have surged to a new high of 11.9% as retail failures including Comet and Jessops impacted shopping centres.
The percentage of empty UK shops in April worsened from 10.9% in January and was the highest rate since the British Retail Consortium/Springboard survey began in 2011.
High streets have been “vastly outperforming” shopping centres and out-of-town retail parks, boosted by a 5% increase in evening drinkers, diners and clubbers.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “It’s a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK, with some regions like the South West seeing a significant leap in empty shop numbers.”
She added: “The unsettled weather at the start of the month seems to have created pent-up demand, which brought many of us out to shop when more spring-like weather finally made an appearance.”
High street footfall was up 3.4%, the strongest performance since December 2011, but shopping centre visitors fell 3%.
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: “This disparity is partly due to the fact that many of the high-profile retail failures – reflected in the increased vacancy rate – have been located in malls, creating holes in their retail frontages which have adversely affected their attractiveness to shoppers.
“The resilience of high streets is also likely to be a function of their diversity, as they have an offer that spans more than just retail.”
Local growth minister Mark Prisk said: “We’re determined to do all we can to support communities up and down the country working to breathe new life into their high streets.
“That’s why we’re changing planning restrictions so landlords can alter how empty shops are used for up to two years, making it easier for start-up businesses to set up in the high street, why we’ve backed a practical toolkit to help communities set up pop-up shops in vacant premises to help increase footfall, and why we’ve doubled small business rate relief with over half a million businesses expected to benefit.
“And going forward, we’ve brought together leading retailers, civic leaders and trade organisations in a Future High Streets Forum to help high streets adapt and change to the challenges they face.”