Scotland recorded Britain’s biggest regional reduction in occupied high street units in 2017, according to the latest bi-annual Retail and Leisure Trends Report from the Local Data Company (LDC).
The net closure of 520 premises north of the border pushed Greater London (498) and Yorkshire & Humber (361) into second and third places respectively.
Across GB in 2017, all retail categories (comparison goods, service retail, leisure and convenience retail) experienced decline and the vacancy rate increased for the first time since LDC started tracking it in 2012. However, this was only a very marginal increase at 0.2% over the entire year, settling at 11.2% – the same rate as 12 months earlier at the end of 2016.
Of greater concern is the continued decline in the number of convenience retail units throughout Britain. This gathered pace in 2017, with 806 net shop closures almost double that of the previous year’s 409. This means that since 2013 – which recorded net openings of 1,389 – there has been a net closure of some 2,195 c-stores.
Numbers of both multiples and independent occupiers declined for the first time since 2012, with numbers of independent business falling by 1,483 in 2017. The decline in numbers of multiples continued with 4,010 multiple units shutting up shop for the last time in 2017.
Commenting on the figures, David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The volume of shop closures is concerning and comes at a time when retailers are facing significant changes in consumers’ shopping habits, weak growth in retail sales, and burgeoning public policy-induced costs. Indeed the growth in government-imposed costs – such as business rates, the national living wage, rising employer pension contributions and the apprenticeship levy – is outstripping that of shopper spending.
“The devolved administration’s rates surcharge on medium-sized and larger commercial premises affects 5,000 stores, and costs retailers £14 million a year, which only serves to make it even more expensive to operate shops in our town centres. It is little wonder that one in nine retail premises is empty leaving gap-toothed high streets with vacant units.”