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Vacancy rates should not make retailers complacent

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Shop vacancy rates fell to 13% in March, compared to 13.1% in February 2015, according to The Local Data Company, a UK retail location data and insight firm.  

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at The Local Data Company comments:

“These numbers are encouraging and reflect the wider positive news on consumer sentiment and spend. These numbers were last seen back in 2010 so it is a cause for celebration!”

Though expansion plans seem to be back on track with stores such as Aldi  planning to open 60 new locations this year, it isn’t all roses for British businesses. Over the past six months, major ‘out-of-town’ retailers have announced 216 closures, resulting in the potential loss of 7,500 jobs- specifically affecting supermarkets and DIY chains.

Though findings were more positive on a whole, retail business can be tempestuous.

“Recent closure news from B&Q and Morrisons show that these numbers can very easily change in the opposite direction,” adds Hopkinson. “Whilst these numbers show more shops opening, we are also seeing structural change where shops are changing use to alternative uses and March saw the largest number of demolished properties at 95 (40 in February)”.

Changes are also noticeable at large shopping centres such as London’s Westfields. In 2013 White City’s Gilly Hicks closed due to disappointing sales figures in the UK. Mike Jeffries, Chief Executive of Abercrombie commented in 2014:, "Our results for the third quarter reflect continued top-line challenges, with overall spending among younger consumers remaining weak”, leaving the company with no other choice but to close its UK locations.  

Other notable store closures in 2014 included Foyles and La Senza in White City, and the Samsung Experience store in Westfield Stratford City.  

The alterations can be put down to various factors including rents, financial difficulties and locality. They highlight how important it is for retailers to not become too complacent, even when vacancy rates are falling.  

“Whilst one should not underestimate the challenges retailers face with price deflation and a very savvy consumer we are continuing to see the growth of food and beverage outlets on our high streets which will occupy vacant shops when planning allows,” Hopkinson adds. 

Published on Friday 10 April by Rachel Gee

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