// Latest vacancy monitor reveals 13.7% of all shops were empty in the last 3 months of 2020
// This is an increase on 13.2% in the three-month period before it, and the 10th month in a row of rising shop vacancies
// Shopping centres were the worst hit, with the vacancy rate jumping 17.1% from 16.3%
The UK retail sector’s recent turmoil worsened during the last three months of 2020 as more shops shuttered in the face of coronavirus restrictions, according to new figures.
The latest vacancy monitor from the BRC and Local Data Company revealed that 13.7 per cent of all shops were empty during the quarter to the end of December.
Vacancy levels jumped from 13.2 per cent in the previous three-month period, as the monitor reported the 10th consecutive quarter of rising vacancies.
- Landlords to pay up to £1bn in business rates on empty shops
- Retail footfall drops to lowest level on record in 2020
- Retail sales in 2020 witness largest annual fall in history
The latest quarter saw shops impacted by lockdown measures across England in November and tighter tiered restrictions in December, before the latest national lockdown.
It was also a period blighted with more major high street casualties, with Topman and Burton parent company Arcadia Group sliding into administration and department store giant Debenhams entering liquidation.
Shopping centres saw a particular surge in shuttered stores, as the vacancy rate jumped to 17.1 per cent from 16.3 per cent in the third quarter.
High street vacancies increased to 13.7 per cent from 13.3 per cent in the previous period.
Meanwhile, retail parks remained resilient with a vacancy rate of 10 per cent for the past quarter.
“With the country in and out of lockdown, the forced closures of thousands of shops, and consumers reluctant to visit town and city centres, it is unsurprising that the number of shuttered stores continues to rise,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“Over the past two years, one in every 50 outlets has permanently closed and this number will only go up.
“The big increase in vacancy rates during the crucial golden retail quarter, when demand is usually high, serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact.”
She added that the UK Government “must urgently extend the business rates relief beyond April”, provide additional support to the hardest hit retailers and extend the lease forfeiture moratorium.
Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at Local Data Company, said: “With recent announcements from the likes of Debenhams and Arcadia, the size of the stores coming on to the market will present a real challenge given the likely lack of demand for larger high street units.
“With a limited number of new store openings, structural solutions will need to be found to prevent these vacant units lying empty for two, three, four years or more.
“Looking further out, the increase in availability of space will provide opportunities for new businesses, however we must prepare ourselves for the picture to get worse before it gets better.”
with PA Wires