Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, has urged the Government to support rents for retail properties.
The call came after publication of the inaugural BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor, which revealed a consistent increase in the number of stores lying empty.
The Monitor found that, in the first quarter of 2020, the overall GB vacancy rate ticked-up slightly to 12.2%, from 12.1% in Q4 2019.
On the High Street, vacancies increased to 12.3% in Q1 2020 – remaining broadly in line with the overall rate. This was up from 12.1% in Q4 2019.
Retail Parks – which have the lowest vacancy rate by far – also saw a slight increase to 8.2% in Q1 2020, up from 8.1% in Q4 2019.
In contrast to the overall trend, Shopping Centre vacancies decreased in Q1 2020, down to 14.1% from Q4 2019’s 14.4%. However, this rate remains significantly higher than the overall result for the quarter.
When broken down into 11 regions, Scotland had Great Britain’s fifth-lowest vacancy rate (12.9%). Greater London had the lowest (8.9%) while the north-east had the country’ s highest vacancy rate of 16.7%.
Dickinson said: “With over three million retail jobs in the UK it is vital that as many firms as possible are in a strong enough financial position to continue trading once lockdown is lifted.
“While the Government furlough scheme, loans and business rates holiday have provided an essential lifeline for thousands of retailers, stores continue to face fixed costs such as rent.
“To protect jobs and ensure the economy is able to get back on its feet in the coming months, it is vital that the Government follows the lead of other European countries and supports rents.”