Empty shops now account for 11.9% of retail space, after the fall of Comet and Jessops knocked holes in the shopping hubs and out-of-town retail parks.
The percentage of UK shop vacancies in April increased from 10.9% in January and was the highest rate since the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard survey began in 2011. It said high streets have been “vastly outperforming” malls and retail parks, boosted by a 5% increase in evening drinkers, diners and clubbers.
Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: “It’s a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK, with some regions like the South West seeing a significant leap in empty shop numbers.”
But rising temperatures lifted April footfall 1% on a year earlier, a marked improvement on the 5.2% fall in March, as more shoppers ventured out compared with a rainy April 2012. High street footfall was up 3.4%, the strongest performance since December 2011, but shopping centre visitors fell 3%. Greater London was the strongest-performing region with footfall rising 4.2% and just 7.4% of its shops vacant. Footfall in Northern Ireland slumped 6.4% in April, while its shop vacancy rate hit 18.1%. In Wales, shoppers were down 2.1%, with a vacancy rate of 17.9%. The South West saw footfall slide 1.3% and shop vacancies hit 14%.
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