British retail vacancy improvement slows

Britain’s retail vacancy rate has remained at 12.3 per cent in November.

Over the past nine months, the number of vacant shops has now varied by no more than one in a thousand, according to new figures from the Local Data Company (LDC).

The “new-found” stability set in this year following consistent, gradual improvement since its peak of 14.6 per cent in September 2012.

Vacancy levels among leisure units stood at 8.2 per cent for the third consecutive month.

The all-vacancy rate, which combines retail and leisure units, remained unchanged at 11.2 per cent for the fifth month in a row.

According the LDC, the key driver in the weakening in improvement was a fall in reoccupations of vacant premises. In November there were 17.7 per cent fewer moves from vacant to occupied units, compared with the same month in 2015.

The level of empty shops remains more than twice as high as its pre-crash base.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC, commented: “As we come to the end of the year and are well into the Christmas retail peak, the steady improvement in vacancy has lost its drive. Our other indices, such as the health index and openings and closings, show that there is plenty of life in the market, despite the flatness of the overall trend.

“Looking forward, though, we have often seen the index to start to move as the year turns. January brings change as many leases end around the Christmas quarter day and new tenancies begin. The taste for openings this time will doubtless be conditioned by both current trading and optimism, or otherwise, about the prospects for retail in the run-up to Brexit and beyond.”