High Streets hit as shop vacancy rate worst since 2015

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The number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest for four years, industry figures show.

The vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, its highest level since January 2015, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

Footfall also fell by 1.9% in July, the worst July performance for seven years.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director, said July had been “much more challenging” for shopping centres and High Streets than out of town stores.

The survey showed that High Street footfall declined by 2.7% in July, and shopping centre footfall declined by 3.1%.

In contrast, footfall in retail parks increased by 1.2%.

‘Enhanced experience’

Ms Wehrle added: “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.”

The BRC said there was concern about the rise in empty store fronts.

“If the government wishes to avoid seeing more empty shops in our town centres then they must act to relieve some of the pressure bearing down on the High Street,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

“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 corner shops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London.”

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