The retail site vacancy rate across the UK has given the sector the slimmest glimmer of hope, it has emerged.
Data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has shown that the UK vacancy rate for retail sites has plateaued in Q3 by comparison to Q2.
The sector will be hoping that this plateau precedes an upturn in shop occupancy rates, which would indicate an improvement in footfall and spending. With Christmas on the horizon this remains a distinct possibility if no further lockdowns are introduced.
In the third quarter of 2021, the overall GB vacancy rate remained at 14.5%, the same level as Q2. It was 1.3% higher than at the same point in 2020.
No locations saw an increase in vacancies in Q3, with shopping centre vacancies remaining at 19.4% for the second consecutive quarter.
On the high street, vacancies remained at 14.5% in Q3 – remaining in line with the overall rate.
Retail park vacancies decreased slightly to 11.3% in Q3 2021, down from 11.5% in Q2. Also, it remains the location with the lowest rate.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “While this is the first time in over three years vacancy rates have not risen, they still remain at a record high.
“Retail parks remain resilient as the only location type that saw vacancies fall this quarter.
“This is because many brands who have traditionally occupied shopping centres and high streets are opening stores in out-of-town locations to meet customer demand, and retail parks have become increasingly vital for supporting the expanding online services of some businesses.
“Meanwhile, 10% of high street shops and more than 13% of retail units in shopping centres have remained empty for over a year, which is the result of the high costs of opening and running shops in many parts of the country.
“When stores are forced to close, it not only takes away much needed jobs, but also diminishes the vibrancy of those communities.
“This gives retail a vital role in supporting the Government’s levelling up agenda.
“However, business rates continue to pose a threat to the future vibrancy of hundreds of towns across the UK and without a reduction in the burden, four-in-five retailers say they are likely or certain to close some of their stores.
“Wednesday’s Budget announcement fell far short of the truly fundamental reform that is needed, meaning we will likely see further loss of shops and jobs and it will prevent investment in many of the areas that need it the most.”