Friday 31 July 2020 12:01 am

Retail vacancies to spike in coming months, experts warn

Retail vacancies crept up in the second quarter but the industry warned of a spike in empty properties when the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic hits the high street.

In the second quarter the shop vacancy rate in Britain increased to 12.4 per cent, from 12.2 per cent in the first three months of the year, which was the eighth consecutive quarter of increasing rates.

Read more: BRC: Retailers ease discounting in July as lockdown relaxed

In the first three weeks of the third quarter vacancies saw a 0.2 percentage point increase, suggesting the increase will be a sustained trend. 

Greater London suffered the biggest increase in vacancies, rising from 8.9 per cent to 9.1 per cent, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium and The Local Data Company.

Experts predicted there will be a surge in retail vacancies in coming months as the full impact of the pandemic hits the high street as government support is withdrawn. 

BRC chief executive Helen Dickenson said: “Covid has accelerated many of the changes in retailing already underway.

“Online continues to grow and retail stores should also have a vital role in our communities, supporting jobs and other businesses which rely on retail footfall. 

“The shuttering of too many shops on our high streets will threaten the vibrancy of town centres, and damage local economies. 

“With many months of rent having built up during lockdown, the Government must ensure local stores are not shouldered with unpayable debts.

“Without action, there will be unprecedented retail and business failures, job losses and knock on consequences for highly geared property owners.”

All retail locations reported an increase in vacancies in the second quarter.

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Shopping centre vacancies jumped from 14.1 per cent to 14.3 per cent, and empty spaces on high streets increased to 12.4 per cent from 12.3 per cent. 

Vacancies at retail parks were up from 8.2 per cent to 8.3 per cent.