UK shop vacancy rates fell 0.1 per cent to 14.2 per cent in 2012 as the end of the year “sounded the death knell” for a number of retailers on the British high street, according to data released today.
Despite remaining broadly flat in 2012, this year’s vacancy rate is set to be hit by the administrations of well-known retailers including HMV, Jessops and Republic, which have caused hundreds of store closures across the country.
The out-of-town market was badly affected at the end of last year by the failure of electricals retailer Comet though, according to a report by the Local Data Company (LDC), this loss may prove beneficial to competitors as the economy begins to recover.
Nationally, the highest vacancy rate was seen at shopping centres which reported an overall average of 15.6 per cent, followed by town centres and retail parks which recorded vacancy rates of 14.2 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively.
All regions, other than Yorkshire & The Humber, London and the East Midlands, reported a vacancy rate rise, with the West Midlands reporting a rise of 0.8 per cent to 18.5 per cent over the year.
Wales remains the worst performing country with a shop vacancy rate of 18 per cent, while Scotland and England reported vacancy rates of 15.5 per cent and 13.9 per cent respectively.
“The picture is one of increasing polarization of performance between town centres, shopping centres and retail parks in every part of the country,” explained LDC Director Matthew Hopkinson, adding that the ongoing struggles of physical stores present an opportunity for digitally savvy retailers.
“Online is driving growth for a majority of retailers and so 2013 is all about the supporting role that shops will have as ‘customer experience’ centres and showrooms as much as transactions through their tills.
“Inevitably this means fewer shops will be required as our net closures data shows, and as such one can expect this divergence in performance to grow.
“The big unknown is how technology will continue to channel and mould consumer spending habits and to what effect as bricks as clicks take the lead role?
“The pressure between online and rising costs of running a shop on the high street due to rents, rates and parking charges, is likely to become an increasingly hot topic.”