Vacancy levels tumble as empty units bulldozed

The number of vacant retail units demolished in June 2016 increased by 43 per cent, compared with the same period last year, new figures have revealed.

According to the Local Data Company (LDC), Britain’s shop vacancy remained at 12.3 per cent in June, which is the lowest level since November 2009.

The vacancy level dropped by half a per cent on June 2015, driven by an increase in the number of new units (up 13 per cent) as well as the surge in the number of vacant units demolished.

Shop vacancy was unchanged at 12.3 per cent, while leisure vacancy and all retail and leisure vacancy both increased by 0.1 per cent to 8.1 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively.

The shopping centre vacancy rate dropped by 1.6 per cent to 13.2 per cent in June. Shopping centres saw the biggest drop across all location types.

The West Midlands (down 2.2 per cent) and North-East (down 3.8 per cent) saw the biggest fall in vacancy rates, while Wales was the only region to see an increase (0.4 per cent) in the past 12 months.

The retail park vacancy rate was 0.9 per cent lower in June. The West Midlands, North-West and Wales saw the biggest improvements with a 1.9 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 1.7 per cent decrease respectively.

Town centre vacancy levels remained unchanged from May at 10.7 per cent in June. In the last 12 months, the figure fell by half a per cent from 11.2 per cent.

Scotland was the only region to see an increase in its vacancy rate, up 0.8 per cent since May 2015.

Persistent vacancy rates, which is the number of units vacant for three years or more, decreased by 1.6 per cent in June, with 189 fewer units, compared with six months ago.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC said: “The increase in demolished units that the LDC shows is a positive sign of structural change and is what is required in many locations up and down the country. Short-term vacant units are not the issue; it is units vacant for longer than two years that indicate oversupply and detract from the health of a location.

“These numbers do not reflect the Brexit fallout, which will take time to show in the data as a result of any change in openings or closures and thus the take up or not of vacant units up and down the country. With retailer and leisure operators being challenged by profitability as a result of increased costs and competition, coupled now by a significant drop in consumer confidence, then one would expect that change to be afoot.”