Vacancy rate rises to highest in four years

The national town centre vacancy rate was 10.2 per cent in April, a further increase on the previous quarter rate of 9.9 per cent, and the highest since April 2015.

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard figures also revealed that footfall declined by 0.5 per cent in April, compared to the same point last year when it declined by 3.3 per cent.

This was broken down to a one per cent decline in High Street footfall - compared to a four per cent fall during the same month last year - retail park footfall increased by 2.2 per cent, in contrast to April 2018 when footfall decreased by 1.8 per cent. Shopping centre footfall declined by 2.1 per cent, a significant slowdown from a year ago when it decreased by 3.1 per cent.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “With regular reports of shop closures, it may come as no surprise that town centre vacancy rates rose to their highest level in four years – empty shopfronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area, decreasing footfall for all those around.

“This effect can be cyclical, with the long-term decline in footfall pushing up vacancy rates, particularly in poorer areas.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director, noted the distortion in the year-on-year footfall results for April due to the early Easter in March last year.

“However, the expected bounty as a result of Easter occurring in April this year did not provide enough of a boost to deliver positive figures for the month, with footfall still down 0.5 per cent lower than April last year," she stated.

“This demonstrates the continued challenges facing many retailers, also reflected in the 10.2 per cent vacancy rate, which has risen in each of the past four quarters and is now the highest it has been for four years.”

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