Empty UK shops increase as pandemic hits sector

by | Jul 30, 2021

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The proportion of UK shops sitting empty rose in the second quarter after retailers were buffeted by lockdowns and falling sales during the pandemic, trade figures showed.
The vacancy rate for retail premises increased to 14.5% from 14.1% the previous quarter and was 2.1 points higher than at the same point in 2020, the British Retail Consortium/Local Data Company survey showed.

All location types suffered higher vacancies with shopping centres the worst-hit, rising to 19.4% from 18.4%. High street vacancies were 14.5% and at retail parks 11.5% of premises were empty.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “It comes as no surprise that the number of shuttered stores in the UK continues to rise, after retailers have been in and out of lockdown for over a year. While vacancy rates are rising across all retail locations, it is shopping centres, with a high proportion of fashion retailers, that have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Dickinson said vacancies could rise further now the Covid-19 business rates holiday has come to an end. Retailers were complaining about the burden imposed by business rates even before the pandemic piled on extra pressure.

“The government must ensure the ongoing business rates review leads to reform of this broken system, delivering on its commitment to permanently reduce the cost burden to sustainable levels,” Dickinson said. “The longer the current system persists, the more jobs losses and vacant shops we will see, hurting staff, customers and communities up and down the country.”

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