Retail footfall eases downwards as shop vacancy rates climb upwards

Monday, 18 August 2014
Although retail footfall continues to decline across the UK, shop vacancy rates have increased over the past quarter, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Springboard Retail Footfall and Vacancies Monitor.

Vacancy rate at "its lowest level"

The national town center vacancy rate throughout the UK was 10.1 percent in July, a decrease from April's rate of 10.6 percent in April. According to Helen Dickinson, director general at the BRC, the “vacancy rate [is] at its lowest level since [the BRC] records began in July 2011.” She added that the “reduction in the shop vacancy rate for the third successive quarter is heartening.”

However, Dickinson warns that although the improving may be “heartening,” the vacancy rate is still too high, as “every tenth shop remains unoccupied.” “This reinforces the need for a fundamental overhaul of commercial property taxes, which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new or existing retail premises and thus help rejuvenate our high streets.”

Whilst shop vacancy appears to be improving, footfall across the country still seems to be lagging. Overall footfall during July was 0.6 percent down compared to the same time one year ago, but improved slightly from the 0.7 percent drop report in June.

High streets throughout the country saw the largest decline once more, falling 1.7 percent, which was consistent with the drop in June. Shopping centers on the other hand reported a 0.5 percent decline in footfall, an improvement from the 1.2 percent drop in June.

Out-of-town locations continue to attract the most footfall

Out-of-town retail locations continue to fare the best, and saw 1.7 percent in July compared to the same month one year ago as Scotland reported the largest increase in regional footfall, up 4.4 percent year-on-year. “July did not herald any good news,” said Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard.

‘’Whilst footfall continues to decline, the improvement in vacancy rates...indicates a growing flexibility and responsiveness of landlords in the face of tough trading conditions, which has increasingly included the introduction “pop up” shops and temporary lets.”

“And the good news underpinning this is that the drop in vacancies over each of the last three quarters is widespread, occurring in at least six UK regions. However, the key issue for town centres in the longer term is the extent to which any temporary let is converted into long term occupation beyond the Summer and into the key Christmas trading.”

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