The vacancy rate for retail warehousing has fallen to its lowest level for almost two decades, new research has revealed.

The number of out-of-town units lying empty across the UK fell 10% over the past year, according to Trevor Wood Associates’ Definitive Guide to Retail and Leisure Parks 2017.

The vacancy rate of 5.3% is now lower than at any time since the retail and leisure development research specialists started producing the records back in 2001 – and significantly below the peak figure of 11.8% recorded in 2009.

Although the likes of BHS and Brantano have entered administration over the past year, demand for out-of-town locations has remained robust, as retailers including B&M, Poundland, The Range and Home Bargains continue to expand.

Last year, more than 5m sq ft of floor space was snapped up by retail park tenants, with 39 of the UK’s top 50 non-food tenants increasing their presence in the out-of-town locations.

A buoyant market

Trevor Wood Associates said the balance of supply and demand meant rental levels remained “relatively stable” over the past year.

However, it said the proportion of retail parks now charging “peak rents” of up to £30 per sq ft rose 15% during the last 12 months.

Trevor Wood Associates founder Trevor Wood said: “This analysis shows that the retail warehouse market is buoyant and vacancy rates look set to improve over the coming year with numerous store openings proposed.

“The future looks positive, particularly when you consider that we have featured 113 schemes thought likely to proceed before 2023 in our development pipeline.

“This pipeline is greater than at any time since our 2008 review when the vacancy rate was recorded at 8.3% and rising whereas now it is 5.3% and falling.”