The national high street vacancy rate has hit record levels according to a survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). The figures reveal that 11.3 per cent of shops currently stand empty. Put another way this amounts to more than one in ten, and the BRC predicts that this could rise even higher before the situation begins to improve.
The figures for October show a 0.4 per cent rise on the previous month and are the highest since the BRC began monitoring the number of unoccupied retail properties in July 2011. The survey shows that Northern Ireland has the highest vacancy rates, closely followed by Wales and the north of England.
Poor trading conditions have led to a crop of high profile names entering administration over the past 12 months and this is a major factor contributing to the gloomy situation. Another is the growth in online shopping which appears set to continue. A third factor, according to the BRC, is the level of business rates.
Director General Stephen Robertson said; “This new high in empty shop numbers really sets alarm bells ringing.
“It confirms the financial challenges for both customers and retailers are far from over. Next year’s threatened business rate 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.”
With Christmas rapidly approaching the figures for November and December could show a short term fall in vacancy rates as commercial property landlords become more flexible in an attempt to attract pop-up shops into their empty premises. However, overall conditions remain difficult and the medium term outlook is poor.
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