Different shop vacancy rate monitors help illustrate the state of the retail market but when data differs how does the market know which to believe?

Why are we talking about this now?

The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) has accused the Local Data Company (LDC) of providing data about shop vacancy rates that is “fatally flawed”, reporting worse results than in reality.

However, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk has defended the figures calling ACTM’s comments an “astonishing attack”.

Why has the argument occurred?

The ATCM believes LDC uses out of date criteria for establishing town centre boundaries, which they say does not “reflect the reality on the ground”.

According to the ATCM, LDC uses Government data which has not been updated since 2004. Instead it wants the Local Data Company to get each data set approved by the appropriate local authority before it is published.

But Danczuk has retaliated, saying that the ATCM’s argument “smacks of desperation”.

Who else provides shop vacancy rate figures?

The British Retail Consortium in partnership with Springboard provides monthly vacancy rate updates.

How do they differ from one another?

The LDC recorded average shop vacancy rates stood at 14.6% for the first six months of the year and 14.5% in July, while the BRC-Springboard Monitor records an 11.4% vacancy rate for July.

LDC reports quarterly using the boundaries provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government. LDC acknowledges the data needs to be updated but it uses the Government data so the process is unbiased and consistent, it is understood, .

Springboard calculates its rates through surveying town centre managers in 450 UK locations. It is defined as the percentage of the ground floor units in the town centre that are vacant, and a vacant unit which is not trading at the time of the survey.

Who is right?

Both LDC and BRC-Springboard should be accurate in their context, despite the differences in numbers.

Vacancy rates remain stubbornly high, can the Government help reduce them?

The Government is looking to scrap red tape that covers temporary rents, which could make it easier for retailers to set open pop-up shops and used empty shops.

However, many vacancies are a result of retail administrations which have led to shop closures and too-high rents as shoppers have reined back spending in a very difficult economic environment.