No retail locations saw an increase in vacancy rates in the third quarter of 2021 for the first time since 2018, though overall vacancies remain at record highs.

In the third quarter of 2021, neither high streets, shopping centres nor retail parks saw store vacancy rates increase for the first quarter in three years, according to the latest BRC-LDC vacancy monitor. 

 

Vacancies across all three retail destinations remained flat, with shopping centre vacancies standing at 19.4%, high streets at 14.5% and retail parks at 11.3% for the period. 

While the quarter data may make for happier reading, overall UK retail vacancies still stand at 14.5% – 1.3 percentage points higher than in the third quarter of 2020. 

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said retail stores were still struggling and reiterated her belief that the Budget was a missed opportunity from the government to address the ongoing issue of business rates

She said: “While this is the first time in over three years vacancy rates have not risen, they still remain at a record high. Retail parks remain resilient as the only location type that saw vacancies fall this quarter. 

“This is because many brands who have traditionally occupied shopping centres and high streets are opening stores in out-of-town locations to meet customer demand, and retail parks have become increasingly vital for supporting the expanding online services of some businesses. Meanwhile, 10% of high street shops and more than 13% of retail units in shopping centres have remained empty for over a year, which is the result of the high costs of opening and running shops in many parts of the country,” she said. 

“When stores are forced to close, it not only takes away much-needed jobs but also diminishes the vibrancy of those communities. This gives retail a vital role in supporting the government’s levelling-up agenda. However, business rates continue to pose a threat to the future vibrancy of hundreds of towns across the UK, and without a reduction in the burden, four-in-five retailers say they are likely or certain to close some of their stores. Wednesday’s Budget announcement fell far short of the truly fundamental reform that is needed, meaning we will likely see further loss of shops and jobs and it will prevent investment in many of the areas that need it the most.”

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