High Street vacancies tank to worst rate in four years

Data from the British Retail Consortium has illustrated the difficulties on the High Street, which is at its most vacant in four years.

As purse strings tighten across the UK amid warnings of a potential recession footfall mirrored the closures, also posting its worst July since 2012; down 1.9% on last year.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, up slightly on Q1’s 10.2% and the highest since January of 2015.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium offered: “Retailers have faced a challenging environment this month, with declines in footfall on High Streets and Shopping Centres. Sluggish sales growth and declining footfall also contributed to the rise in town centre vacancies, which rose to their highest level since January 2015. High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty store fronts.

“If the Government wishes to avoid seeing more empty shops in our town centres then they must act to relieve some of the pressure bearing down on the high street. Currently, retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of all business costs and 25% of all business taxes. The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable. We need an immediate freeze in rates, as well as fixing the Transitional Relief, which leads to cornershops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London.”

July data also revealed a record low for July sales, as reported earlier this month.

Bucking the trend, Retail Park footfall increased by 1.2% over July of 2018, with three-month average growth of 0.2%.

Meanwhile, shopping centres saw a heavy dip at 3.1% like-for-like and that came on the back of a 3.4% decline the month prior. The three-month average is down 3%.

With 92% of consumers declaring that they do not intend to buy the first time they log on online, retailers are challenged to hold customer’s attention on the first visit in store, should they choose to physically scope out a product.