Shop vacancies rise as demand for pop-ups plummets

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The percentage of vacant shops across the UK rose above 10% in July, driven by a falling demand for pop-up shops.

The UK-wide vacancy rate of 10.1% marks the first time the figure has breached the 10% threshold since April 2015, according to a quarterly research report published by the British Retail Consortium and research group Springboard.

The rise is being partly blamed on start-up retail businesses taking short term leases, but then failing to convert them into longer agreements.

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Diane Wehrle, a director at Springboard, told the Guardian: “Between October and January vacancies went down, partly on the back of more pop-up shops. Since then, temporary lets have not become permanent lets. The key thing is to see if pop-ups start increasing again coming into Christmas.”

The north of England saw the highest rates of shop vacancies with 15.8% of premises sitting empty, followed by Wales at 11.9% and Scotland at 7.5%.

The best performing area is the South West of England, with just 7% of business premises in town centres sitting empty.

“The increase in the number of empty shops is an unwelcome reminder of the heavy burden of property costs,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

“After a long run of shop vacancies being below 10%, seeing them rise over that threshold once again will be a bitter disappointment to many,” she continued.

“With UK property taxes higher than anywhere else in the developed world they act as a disincentive to operate physical space. Today’s figures should serve as a wake-up call.”

The Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, released today, indicates that good weather and sales campaigns gave high streets a 0.3% year-on-year uptick in July footfall compared to the 3.7% drop that occurred in June.

However, footfall across the whole retail sector was down by 0.4% for that same period – with shopping centres and retail parks experiencing declines of two and 0.3% respectively.

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