One in Ten Town Centre Shops Empty
More than one in ten town centre shops were empty at the end of May, research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has found.
The BRC’s Footfall and Vacancies report showed that the average vacancy rate across the UK was 11.2%, rising to 13.4% in Wales and 17.1% in Northern Ireland. Overall footfall was 1% lower in July than a year ago.
The retail body said that a combination of high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about the economy was hitting consumer spending levels hard. Public sector job losses were also taking their toll on confidence, the BRC said.
A BRC spokeswoman said that the number of empty high street shops was slightly lower than last year, but warned that a “spiral of decline” was affecting town centres.
“Where there are high numbers of vacant units, people are less inclined to go there, so the problem is exacerbated. Online shopping, and increased competition among bigger stores and out of town shopping centres are all affecting the future of the high street.”
The Association of Convenience Stores said that smaller retailers in market towns and small neighbourhoods were particularly at risk.
“Small operators need to work together to overcome competition from supermarkets and big names.”
said ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan.
Brennan said that local councils also needed to do more to encourage small-scale retail communities.
“Too many councils are giving up on the high street and allowing supermarket developments to take over. Better planning and investment can help — for example, converting bigger units into smaller ones to encourage small operators.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the Government is currently looking at a number of proposals to support high street shops.
“These include the introduction of a package of measures to build on the Town Centre First policy, such as redirecting retail developments to town centre sites.”