Downturn hits downtown as shops lie empty

ONE in eight shops are lying empty in the UK according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which today sets out its rescue strategy for the retail landscape.<br /><br />It says 12 per cent of town centre shops are now vacant, three times as many than last autumn, as retailers have been hit by the slump in consumer demand.<br /><br />The report sets out a series of initiatives aimed at delivering urgent retail aid for improved town centres, such as deterring retail crime.<br /><br />&nbsp;BRC director general Stephen Robertson yesterday said: &ldquo;One in 10 jobs in this country are in retail, and with unemployment forecast to hit over 3m central and local governments should be ensuring support.&rdquo;<br /><br />The BRC high street rescue plan yesterday won the support from Alex Gourlay, chief executive of Alliance Boots health and beauty division, who said the group was &ldquo;acutely aware of the vital importance of ensuring the long term vitality&rdquo;.