Third lockdown drives retail vacancy rate even higher, claims new report

30 Apr 2021

The third lockdown has driven retail vacancies even higher, according to a new report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Key points from the BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor for Q1 2021 are as follows:

  • In the first quarter of 2021, the overall GB vacancy rate increased to 14.1%, from 13.7% in Q4 2020. It was 1.9 percentage points higher than in the same point in 2020. This marks three years of increasing vacancy rates, from Q1 2018.
  • All locations saw an increase in vacancies in Q1, with Shopping Centre vacancies increasing to 18.4% from Q4 2020’s 17.1%.
  • On the High Street, vacancies increased to 14.1% in Q1 – remaining in line with the overall rate. This was up from 13.7% in Q4 2020.
  • Retail Park vacancies increased slightly to 10.6% in Q1 2021, up from 10.0% in Q4 2020. However, it remains the location with by far the lowest rate.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “After a third national lockdown, it is no surprise that the vacancy rate has continued to soar. The forced closure of thousands of shops during the first quarter of 2021 has exacerbated already difficult conditions for the retail industry. We estimate there are around 5,000 fewer stores since the start of the pandemic, meaning 1 in 7 shops now lie empty. There is significant regional disparity in vacancies, with the North of England showing a greater increase compared with other parts of the country. Shopping centres, many of which have been forced to close for a large portion of this pandemic, have fared worse than other retail locations, with over 12% of units lying empty for a year or more.

“With full business rates relief and the moratorium on aggressive debt enforcement ending in England this summer, many stores may never reopen. The Government must ensure the ongoing business rates review leads to reform of the broken system and permanently reduces the cost burden which is leading to unnecessary stores closures and job losses. The devolved nations have already agreed to extend the business rates holiday until 2022 and England should consider following suit.”

Download the report now

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