One in seven UK shops lie empty as CV19 and rates take toll

Union Street

AROUND 6,000 shops have closed across the UK over the past five years as vacancy rates reach “critical levels”, industry data shows.

In the second quarter of this year the overall vacancy rate increased to 13.9% after rising by 0.1 percentage point, according to the latest British Retail Consortium-Local Data Company (BRC-LDC) vacancy monitor. 

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The number of outlets lying vacant in shopping centres was worse at 17.8%.

The Times has reported that, geographically, the highest rates of empty storefronts in the second quarter were in the North-east of England, followed by Wales and Scotland. 

In Aberdeen, there remain 43 vacant units on Union Street, equating to 23% of the total. However, new retailers are emerging as the community led Our Union Street initiative gathers momentum.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said crippling business rates and the impact of the Covid lockdowns were a “key part of decisions to close stores and think twice about new openings”. 

Rising interest rates and inflationary pressures were also to blame.

Lucy Stainton, commercial director at the LDC, said rising interest rates and cost pressures were among reasons for the increase. 

“Vacancy has reached critical levels, highlighting an ever-increasing need to redevelop units to breathe life back into retail destinations,” she said. 

“Current challenges to businesses have been compounded by tightening discretionary spend and a dip in confidence among consumers.”

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