There is increasing evidence that an economic recovery is underway as the GB shop vacancy rate fell to 13.9 per cent in December for the first time in over three years.
The data, collected by the Local Data Company (LDC) across 2,700 towns, cities, retail parks and shopping centres, found the vacancy rate dropped from 14.1 per cent in November last year.
“December‘s drop in the shop vacancy rate is very significant and reflects the more positive outlook that we have seen over the last few months,” said Matthew Hopkinson, LDC director. “Whilst December is THE month to take occupation of a shop it is wider changes that have resulted in this drop below 14% which we have not seen for over three years.”
Vacant shops in the top 650 town centres fell from 22,407 to 21,975.
Hopkinson, who says he will reveal which areas of the country are showing improvement and which are showing decline at the LDC Retail Summit on 9 February, says LCD research found that 78 empty shops were converted to leisure units and 95 long-term vacant units with “little or no prospects” were demolished in December.
The new data contradicts calls that there is “too much retail space in Britain,” according to former Iceland and Wickes boss Bill Grimsey. The retail veteran, who was signed up by Labour as an advisor on business rates last week, supports government plans to turn empty shops into homes believing it could improve community spirit in certain areas.