Demand for shop units in the UK has plummeted over the past year, according to research from the Property Information Project.
In the three months to December 2002, demand for retail floorspace fell 5.8 per cent, on top of a 10.4 per cent fall in the previous quarter.
This means the total fall in demand during last year was 27.5 per cent.
And the fall in demand was felt in all regions of the country.
But the number of individual requirements only fell by 4.9 per cent over the quarter, and by 11.3 per cent over the year. According to PIP director Edmund Camerer Cuss, this shows that it is the big space requirements that have tailed off most strongly.
In December 2001, 27.7 per cent of retailers active in the market had requirements for units larger than 365 sq m. But by December 2002 this had fallen to 19.3 per cent.
'The first half of the year saw those retailers that seek to trade from larger units curtail their expansion programmes,' said Camerer Cuss. 'Typically, these are the major high street names.'
He said that demand for larger units dropped by a quarter in the first six months of last year. In the second half, the demand for smaller units also began to drop away, falling 9.4 per cent between June and December.
Camerer Cuss forecast that weakening demand would soon be reflected in a slowdown in rental growth in the retail sector.
'The unrelenting fall in high street shop demand implies that their rental growth - which has been running at about 1 per cent for most of the past year - will continue to be below the rate of inflation. And it could eventually lead to falling rental values,' he added.