Shop vacancy rate “cause for optimism”


Shop vacancy rates in the UK declined last month and now stand at their lowest so far this year, according to figures revealed today.

The monthly shop vacancy rate fell by 0.16 per cent in October to 14.41 per cent, the first time they have fallen below 14.5 per cent in 2012.

According to the latest research by the Local Data Company (LDC), independent units as a percentage of the total have also seen an improvement, up by one per cent to 68 per cent over the period.

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at the LDC commented: “The reduction in the national vacancy rate to 14.4 per cent is significant.

“Not since December 2011 have we seen the rate below 14.5 per cent so it is cause for optimism.

“What this reflects is the increasing importance of independent shops in populating our high streets as many multiples reduce stores or in the worst case close entirely.

“These changes mean that for the first time independents in the top 650 town centres account for 68 per cent (+one per cent) of the offer by unit numbers.”

Such figures will be welcome news to retailers and follow news that the British economy grew by one percent in the last quarter, bringing hope for the ailing high street.

However, consumer confidence remains low and yesterday, supermarket Asda‘s Mumdex found that British mums‘ confidence in their family finances had dropped 10 per cent since last year.

Hopkinsons conceded: “Uncertainty as to how sustainable this positive change is abounds but in many ways it reflects the fact that retailers are entering their most significant trading period which is the run up to Christmas.

“As ever Christmas trading is a key bell weather for the health of high street retailing and so I will hold judgement to the post Christmas fall out which will come in Q1 2013.”