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Retail vacancy rates remain stable

January was a tough month for UK sales, but while general footfall fell retail vacancies have remained relatively stable, reports the British Retail Consortium.

The BRC's Chief Executive Helen Dickinson, OBE stated: “Our quarterly vacancy rate data shows shop vacancies virtually unchanged at 9.4 per cent of all shops compared 9.5 per cent in October. On a regional level, it was London that saw the strongest improvement, with the proportion of empty shops falling from 9.5 to 8.4 per cent over the three months to January. However, in some parts of the country the number of empty shops remains worryingly high and act merely as a blot on landscape of local communities. And while the overall the rate has tended to remain around 9 to 10 per cent since July 2015, the variation between successful and vulnerable locations grows ever wider.

Springboard's Marketing and Insights Director Diane Wehrle commented: “The UK vacancy rate improved from 9.5 percent in October to 9.4 percent in January. This can be partly explained by the churn of occupancy from retail to hospitality, a feature of the last year, but is also due the fact that the vacancy rate reflects footfall and sales, and so lags behind these as a performance indicator. But it does demonstrate that retail destinations are adapting, with new occupiers offering a much demanded all round customer experience.”

"At a time when retail is being re-imagined as customers seek more engaging experiences in our high streets, town centres and retail park and centres, the incentive for retailers to innovate and invest in physical space is being curtailed by the upward only trajectory of business rates," Dickinson added.

Photo credit: Vacant storefront, source: Flickr