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UK store vacancy rate continues to rise in Q4

By Huw Hughes

29 Jan 2021

The UK’s shop vacancy rate rose to 13.7 percent in Q4, from 13.2 percent in Q3 amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, marking the tenth consecutive quarter of climbing rates.

That increase was experienced across all locations, with shopping centres hit hardest, increasing to 17.1 percent from 16.3 percent in Q3, according to the BRC-LDC vacancy monitor.

The vacancy rate across high streets increased to 13.7 percent from 13.3 percent in Q3 - remaining in line with the overall rate.

Retail Park vacancies meanwhile increased slightly to 10.0 percent, up from 9.2 percent in Q3.

These figures come as the UK, along with many other European countries, has come under a fresh lockdown in recent months.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the figures were “unsurprising” considering the lockdowns, and warned that the numbers “will only go up” if no action is taken.

“The big increase in vacancy rates during the crucial golden retail quarter, when demand is usually high, serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact,” she said. “Social restrictions and their knock on effect on consumer appetite for fashion, has meant that shopping centres are still faring the worst due to their high proportion of clothing outlets. What’s more, due to economic uncertainty, many retailers have paused their plans for future investment in new stores.”

Dickinson urged the government to extend the business rates relief and the moratorium of “aggressive” debt enforcement if it wants to avoid “unnecessary shop closures and the loss of tens of thousands”.

She said: “Without these interventions, not only will retail firms go under, but the vibrancy of our town centres and local communities across the country will be lost.”

Photo credit: FashionUnited