One in seven shops across Britain is empty, BRC says

One in seven shops across Britain stands empty: Pandemic is final nail for many retailers after years of sky-high business rates and rental costs

  • Shopping centre sites hit particularly hard in recent months, BRC says
  • It warns shop vacancy rates could increase further as rate holiday ends 
  • Shop vacancy rates have now reached the highest on record, according to data 

One in seven shops in Britain are vacant with fashion retail premises in shopping centres the hardest hit of all by repeated lockdowns, the British Retail Consortium said today.

Unmasking the plight of many of Britain’s once-bustling shopping hubs, the BRC report said that one in five shopping centre shops are vacant, and more than one in eight have been empty for over a year.

Sky-high rental costs, business rates and the growth of web commerce have hammered bricks-and-mortar retail for years. 

But the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the demise of a string of big-name brands, with previously strong high-street presences like Topshop and Debenhams going to the wall.

Vacant: One in seven shops in Britain now stand empty, the BRC said today

The BRC has warned that the vacancy rate could rise further as the Government’s business rate holiday comes to an end. 

The North East of England, Wales and the North West of England currently have the highest shop vacancy rates in the country, at over 18 per cent. Greater London has the lowest, at just over 11 per cent.

In the second quarter of this year, the overall shop vacancy rate increased to 14.5 per cent, up from 14.1 per cent in the first quarter, the BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor revealed.

Shop vacancy rates have now been rising for the past three years, since the first quarter of 2018. 

All locations saw an increase in vacancies in the second quarter, with shopping centre vacancies climbing to 19.4 per cent from the first quarter figure of 18.4 per cent.

On the high-street, vacancies increased to 14.5 per cent in the second quarter, up from 14.1 per cent in the first quarter.  

Rising: The shop vacancy rate in Britain is on the rise again, the BRC says

Rising: The shop vacancy rate in Britain is on the rise again, the BRC says

Retail Park vacancies increased slightly to 11.5 per cent over the period, up from 10.6 per cent in the first quarter. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, 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.’

She added: ‘Retail parks have also been impacted from the loss of anchor stores and their vacancy rate is rising quickly. The regional contrast is stark – the south of England, including London have seen lower vacancy rates, while the North, where disposable income is lower, continues to have a higher proportion of closed shops.

‘The vacancy rate could rise further now the Covid-19 business rates holiday has come to an end. 

‘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. 

‘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.’

Lucy Stainton, a director of Local Data Company, said: ‘Vacancy now sits at the highest rate ever recorded by the Local Data Company. 

‘With appetite for new space increasing but still modest, there will simply never be enough demand to meet the supply. 

‘The property market will be forced to think of more creative ways to utilise this space, to avoid exacerbating the already high rates of long-term voids across our retail destinations which are not only unsightly and costly for landlords, but also have a negative impact on surrounding stores.’