An increase in retail vacancies helped push up overall high street vacancy rate for the first time in two years, according to new statistics.
New figures from the Local Data Company (LDC) released this week reveal that 11 per cent of all high street properties — both retail and leisure units — were empty for the three months from April to June.
LDC said retail vacancy rates were to blame, as it edged up from 12 to 12.2 per cent during this second quarter.
In addition, with both store opening and store closure activity falling to the lowest level since 2014, the UK had a net loss of 207 stores. Town centres on their own lost a net total of 163.
The vacancy rate had been in slow decline since the 11.7 per cent recorded in mid-2015, dropping to 10.9 per cent in prior quarter, from January to March.
“Net openings and vacancy rates ended the second quarter on falling graphs, but that should not be read as a strong indication that the retail market has turned decisively,” LDC director Matthew Hopkinson.
“Earnings growth is falling behind inflation but the numbers in work continue to rise through a series of record highs, so consumer expenditure could well carry on growing.”
He added: “We have become used to talking about the effects of ‘uncertainty’ on retail, as though uncertainty is not natural in business. But uncertainty really only applied to the period before the referendum, when we were simply unsure of the outcome.
“The question at this point is whether consumers and the businesses that service their wants and needs are approaching the future with optimism or trepidation. Confidence is key.”