Shop vacancies increase as crisis deepens

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the overall GB vacancy rate increased to 13.7%, from 13.2% in Q3. It was 1.6 percentage points higher than the same point in 2019.

This was the tenth consecutive quarter of increasing vacancy rates, from Q2 2018.

All locations saw an increase in vacancies in Q4, with Shopping Centre vacancies increasing to 17.1% from Q3’s 16.3%. On the High Street, vacancies increased to 13.7% in Q4 – remaining in line with the overall rate. This was up from 13.3% in Q3.

Retail Park vacancies increased slightly to 10.0% in Q4 2020, up from 9.2% in Q3. However, it remains the location with by far the lowest rate.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “With the country in and out of lockdown, the forced closures of thousands of shops, and consumers reluctant to visit town and city centres, it is unsurprising that the number of shuttered stores continues to rise. Over the past two years, one in every 50 outlets has permanently closed, and this number will only go up. 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. 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.

“If Government wants to avoid unnecessary shop closures and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, it must urgently extend the business rates relief beyond April, providing additional targeted financial support to the hardest hit retailers, and extend the moratorium of aggressive debt enforcement. 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.”