Retail administrations and the resulting store closures could lead to one in six stores on the high street lying empty this year, according to the Local Data Company
According to research from the Local Data Company (LDC), the UK’s national vacancy rate hit 14.2%, as there were more than 35,500 empty shops across the country’s top 650 town centres.
The vacancy rate remained flat in 2012 but since then big name retailers including Blockbuster, Jessops and HMV have all collapsed into administration, closing hundreds of stores.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson forecast that these closures could push the vacancy rate to 17%, more than a sixth of shops, if the current trends continue.
He said the “growth of large shopping centres and retail parks, store consolidation as leases come to an end, the growth of online spend and the lack of consumer confidence overall” were the reasons for the decline.
He questioned whether the growth of pound shops and discount retailers, as they compete to buy empty sites, would soon fall off as could soon reach “saturation point”.
The report noted a polarisation of high streets with the highest vacancy rates most common in the north and Midlands. Stockport had the highest vacancy rate at 28.3%.
The West Midlands had the largest rise in empty units, up to 18.5%. London, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands reported a rise in the number of shops let to new tenants.
Wales is still the worst performing country as it has 18% of its shops unoccupied. Scotland is the second worst country with a 15.5% vacancy rate but England was the best performer with a 13.9% vacancy rate.
Independent retailers, which accounted for 68% of the shops surveyed, fared better than bigger retailers, the report found. The LDC said the “community service”, which the local stores offered had softened the impact of shoppers shifting to online shopping.