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UK shop vacancies continue to rise amid Covid-19 uncertainty


By Huw Hughes

30 Oct 2020

The UK’s shop vacancy rate rose to 13.2 percent in Q3 from 12.4 percent in Q2 amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, marking the ninth consecutive quarter of increasing rates.

That increase was experienced across all locations, with shopping centres hit hardest, increasing to 16.3 percent from 14.3 percent in the previous quarter, according to the BRC-LDC vacancy monitor.

High streets were also hit hard, with vacancies increasing to 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent in Q2.

Retail Park vacancies increased slightly to 9.2 percent from 8.3 percent in Q2.

These figures come as the UK, along with many other European countries, reinstates new lockdown measures in an attempt to slow the rate of spiking Covid-19 cases. On Thursday, France and Germany both announced national lockdowns.

Retail vacancies expected to continue rising

“With a second wave of the pandemic underway, we have seen a record increase in the number of shuttered shops. Shopping centres fared the worst among retail sites due to the higher proportion of fashion outlets, where consumer demand has been hit hardest,” said BRC CEO Helen Dickinson.

“The uncertain climate has also meant that even those looking to expand are holding off making investments in new stores. As a result, we expect to see the retail vacancy rate continue to rise.

“The Government’s business rates holiday has mitigated some of the impact of the pandemic on shop vacancies and local communities. If retailers see a return of 100 percent business rates next April, the consequences will be severe; the Government should ensure that rates bills reflect current market reality by continuing a level discount at 50 percent, thereby creating a more sustainable cost base for businesses so they can continue to trade and invest in recovery and longer term growth. Without this, there will be unnecessary store closures and the loss of thousands of otherwise viable jobs.”

Photo credit: FashionUnited