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Shop vacancy numbers hit new high

UK shop vacancy levels have reached a new high, standing at 11.3 per cent last month, according to figures released today.

While total footfall in the three month to the end of October fell 0.4 per cent on the same period last year, high street footfall over the quarter declined 0.9 per cent while out-of-town and shopping centre locations saw rises of 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively.

According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, in August footfall increased on the high street for only the third time in nearly two years as Olympics visitors drove sales.

In the three months to the end of October, the East, the South West and Scotland saw footfall plummet furthest, recording a 4.1 per cent, four per cent and 3.9 per cent drop respectively and Steve Booth, CEO of Springboard said that these figures will have impacted shop vacancy rates..

“Though the pace has slowed on last year, the continued decline in footfall could be a factor leading to the 0.4 percentage point increase in vacancy rates,” he said.

“Temporary lets over the festive season may positively affect this figure in November and December and the awareness of increasing vacancy rates has encouraged landlords to become more flexible to try and alleviate this issue, as the heavy rate burden is an ongoing concern for retailers.”

Last weekend, electricals retailer Comet announced that it is to close 41 stores by the end of the month as it continues to seek a buyer for part or all of the business and, despite signs of improvement in the economy as a whole, high-profile administrations are knocking confidence in the retail sector, explained BRC Director General Stephen Robertson.

“It’s a little more cheering to see footfall suffering less than the previous quarter but shopper numbers were still no better than a year ago,” he explained.

“This new high in empty shop numbers really sets alarm bells ringing. It’s the worst vacancy rate since the survey began in July 2011 and confirms that financial challenges for both customers and retailers are far from over.

“Many retailers are battling stagnating sales and rising costs, and next year’s threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse.

“If the Government wants to breathe life back into our town centres and ensure the retail industry can play its full role in job creation it needs to freeze rates in 2013.”

Source : Gemma Taylor – Retail Gazette

19 November 2012
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