One in seven retail shops now empty as vacancies rise

vacancies BRC LDC
High street vacancies increased by 14.1% in the first quarter of 2021
// Retail vacancies have increased across all shopping destinations
// The overall retail vacancy rate increased 14.1% in the first quarter of 2021

New research has found that retail vacancies have increased across all shopping destinations and regions in the first quarter of 2021.

The overall retail vacancy rate increased to 14.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, marking a 1.9 per cent rise from the same period last year, according to the BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor.

This vacancy rate was up from 13.7 per cent recorded in the final quarter of 2020 and marks three consecutive years of increased retail vacancies.


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There are currently around 5000 fewer stores than there were at the start of the pandemic, with one in seven shops vacant.

Shopping centres recorded the largest increase in vacancies during the period, up 18.4 per cent compared with 17.1 per cent the previous quarter.

High street vacancies increased by 14.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, up from 13.7 per cent the previous quarter and in line with the overall vacancy rate.

Meanwhile, retail parks recorded a vacancy rate of 10.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 10 per cent in the final quarter of 2020.

In regional terms, vacancies in the North east stood at the highest level overall, up to 19.3 per cent compared with 18.8 per cent the previous quarter and 16.7 per cent during the same period the previous year.

On a quarterly basis, the West Midlands registered the sharpest increase in it vacancy rate, from 15.6 per cent at the end of 2020 to 16.9 per cent at the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Greater London vacancy rates were flat at 10.7 per cent.

“The number of vacant units has continued to increase in the first three months of this year across the country, despite much of the market being temporarily closed during the third lockdown,” LDC director Lucy Stainton said.

“With this in mind, and despite these percentages increasing significantly, we would argue that we have not yet seen the true impact of this third lockdown and this will only be obvious once the market has had the chance to reopen fully.

“This being said, the early indications from the first few weeks of the ‘unlocking’ have shown there is still significant demand for physical retail and eating out.

“Hopefully, as consumer confidence continues to build momentum with reduced Covid-19 cases, more of the population vaccinated and warmer weather, further fallout from the pandemic might be mitigated somewhat.”

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