As many as one in seven UK shops are still shuttered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic according to recent data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

It put the current overall GB vacancy rate increased at 14.5%, up from 14.1% in Q1 2021, showing that shop vacancies are still on the rise with any positive impact from ‘freedom day’ yet to take effect.

This is also 2.1 percentage points higher than in the same point in 2020, and it marks over three years of increasing vacancy rates, beginning Q1 2018.

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Shopping centres have been worst hit with one in five units closed, while vacancies could rise further as business rates holidays come to an end.

Helen Dickinson OBE, 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.

“Almost one in five shopping centre units now lie empty, and more than one in eight units have been empty for more than a year.

“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.”