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Number of empty stores in UK soars in first quarter of 2021

By Huw Hughes

3 May 2021


Image: Pexels

The number of empty stores across the UK has soared in the first quarter of 2021, new data reveals.

The overall GB vacancy rate increased to 14.1 percent in the first three months of the year, from 13.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the latest BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor.

The figure is 1.9 percentage points higher than in the same point in 2020, and marks three consecutive years of increasing vacancy rates from Q1 2018.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said it was “no surprise that the vacancy rate has continued to soar” following the forced closure of thousands of stores in the first quarter.

One in seven UK stores lie empty

The BRC estimates that there are around 5,000 fewer stores since the start of the pandemic, meaning one in seven shops now lie empty.

The report also found significant regional disparity in vacancies, with the North of England showing a greater increase compared with other parts of the country.

Shopping centres, many of which have been closed for a significant portion of the pandemic, have been hit harder than other retail locations, with over 12 percent of units lying empty for a year or more.

“With full business rates relief and the moratorium on aggressive debt enforcement ending in England this summer, many stores may never reopen,” Dickinson said in a release.

“The government must ensure the ongoing business rates review leads to reform of the broken system and permanently reduces the cost burden which is leading to unnecessary stores closures and job losses. The devolved nations have already agreed to extend the business rates holiday until 2022 and England should consider following suit.”