National town vacancy rates were at their highest in four years, as high street footfall declined again, according to new figures from the BRC.
The latest BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor showed town centre vacancies climbed to 10.2% in April – a further increase on the previous quarter rate of 9.9% and the highest since April 2015.
Footfall declined in the month by 0.5%, compared to the same point last year when it declined by 3.3%.
High street footfall fell by 1%, while shopping centre footfall fell by 2.1%. Bucking the wider trend, footfall at retail parks increased by 2.2% in April.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “With regular reports of shop closures, it may come as no surprise that town centre vacancy rates rose to their highest level in four years. Empty shopfronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area, decreasing footfall for all those around. This effect can be cyclical, with the long-term decline in footfall pushing up vacancy rates, particularly in poorer areas.”
Spingboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The expected bounty as a result of Easter occurring in April this year did not provide enough of a boost to deliver positive figures for the month, with footfall still -0.5% lower than April last year.
“This demonstrates the continued challenges facing many retailers, also reflected in the 10.2% vacancy rate which has risen in each of the past four quarters and is now the highest it has been for four years.”