Retail vacancy rate reaches six-year high

Retail shop vacancies have reached a six-year high due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from Springboard.

The research found the UK vacancy rate rose to 10.8% in July up from 9.8% in January, which means it is now at the highest level since January 2014, reflecting recent widespread store closures.

Springboard found vacancies rose in six out of 10 UK geographies, with the greatest increase of nearly two-thirds occurring in Greater London.

In addition, Springboard found UK retail footfall continued to strengthen for the third consecutive month in August, with a drop of -30.8% from last year.. All three destination types benefited from the EOTHO scheme, although retail parks performed best with footfall in July just 11.1% lower than in 2019.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The reality of the new normal has already started to bite, with Springboard’s latest vacancy rate data reflecting the widespread store closures announced by large retail and hospitality operators.

“Representing those stores and outlets that have ceased trading rather than not having yet reopened, the UK vacancy rate rose in July 2020 to 10.8% from 9.8% in January 2020 which means it is now at the highest level since January 2014.

“Vacancies rose in six out of 10 geographies across the UK, but by far the greatest increase occurred in Greater London where the vacancy rate rose by nearly two-thirds. With Central London dominating Greater London in terms of footfall volume, this result brings into sharp focus the difficulties faced by large cities in attracting customers back and the impact of this on our bricks and mortar retail landscape.”

She added: “The importance of large cities in the ongoing evolution of bricks and mortar retailing needs to be emphasised; in 2019 regional cities across the UK attracted three times the volume of footfall compared to UK high streets, and these greater volumes of footfall are required to support new store formats and environments now demanded by shoppers.

“But with footfall in regional cities still 50.3% lower than in 2019 versus an annual decline of just -11.1% in retail parks it suggests that out of town locations may become even more attractive to retailers.”


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