The latest bi-annual Retail and Leisure Trends Report from the Local Data Company has shown that all retail categories (comparison goods, service retail, leisure and convenience retail) experienced decline in occupancy levels with the GB vacancy rate increasing 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.
Despite attention-grabbing headlines about the ‘death of the high street’, the high street vacancy rate increased by only +0.2% over the year.
Yorkshire and the Humber (-361), Greater London (-498) and Scotland (-520) were the three regions to lose the highest number of occupied high street units in 2017 while 2017’s most entrepreneurial towns across GB (as measured by net growth in independent businesses) included Aberdeen.
Since 2012, over 2,000 barbers have opened, along with 1,235 more coffee shops and a further 2,000 vaping shops.
Reacting to 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 £14m 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.”