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Shop vacancy rate highest in over four years

The number of shops left empty in town centres is at its highest rate for four years, a new report has revealed.

According to the British Retail Consortium, the vacancy rate in July stood at 10.3%, the equivalent to one in ten shops, the highest since January 2015.

The reports also shows town centre footfall fell by 1.9% in July, the worst decline since 2012 and a further 1% decline on the same period last year.

High Street footfall also declined (2.7%), as did shopping centre footfall (3.1%), however, retail parks faired more positively with a 1.2% increase.

Concerned at the rising number of empty store fronts, and blaming sluggish sales growth and declining footfalls, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium is calling for the government to relieve some of the pressure on the high street, adding: “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.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, says the report reflects “the ongoing challenges faced by bricks and mortar destinations” but highlights the opportunities created by retail parks.

“Consumer demand is ever more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out of town destinations where footfall rose by +1.2% in July reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap.  They not only offer consumers accessible shopping environments with free parking and easy click and collect opportunities for online purchases, but many also combine this with an enhanced experience that includes coffee shops and  casual dining restaurants, and some also have leisure facilities."

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