Shop vacancy rate 'wake-up call'

Shop vacancy rate 'wake-up call'

The national town centre vacancy rate fell to 10.1% in July, which should serve as a “wake-up call” about its impact on local communities, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned.

Figures from the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor revealed that town centre footfall was down 0.4% in July 2016, although this was up from the 2.8% fall a month earlier in June. The national town centre vacancy rate now stands at 10.1% in July 2016, up from 9.6% in April 2016.

Helen Dickinson, c.e.o of the BRC, said the increase in the number of empty shops was an “unwelcome reminder” of the heavy burden of property costs, in particular business rates which online companies are not subject to.

“After a long run of shop vacancies being below 10%, seeing them rise over that threshold once again will be a bitter disappointment to many,” Dickinson said.

“The retail industry is undergoing a transformation driven by technology which is changing the way we shop. Shoppers are demanding more a personalised service and a seamless interaction between physical and digital. With UK property taxes higher than anywhere else in the developed world they act as a disincentive to operate physical space. Today’s figures should serve as a wake-up call. If property costs in general, and business rates in particular, continue ever upwards, we should all be concerned about the impact on our local communities up and down the country.”

Last week, the BRC reported that total high street sales increased by 1.9% in July in comparison to the year before, while like-for-like sales were up by 1.1%.

At the time, David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG said: “This first full month of retail sales figures post (The EU referendum) vote suggests that UK shopping patterns haven’t changed versus previous years.”