Despite the rate of shop openings falling year on year, a 32% increase in redeveloped units last year is testament to the growing popularity of bricks and mortar retailing.
Insight business the Local Data Company (LDC) revealed that the number of “structurally changed” or redeveloped sites is up for the second consecutive year – from 2,646 in 2016 to 2,706 in 2017, and to 3,577 in 2018.
LDC said this reflects the “growing trend for landlords to reconsider how existing retail stock is used to meet the changing needs of consumers” and to “mitigate a significant slowdown” in new store openings. In the period, the opening rate decreased by almost 2,000, and 50,828 shops closed, resulting in a net loss of occupied units of 7,550.
The average vacancy rate rose by 0.3 percentage points to 11.5% as of December 2018.
All location types suffered, but retail parks were hit the hardest and recorded an increase in vacancy rates of 2.2 percentage points in 2018 – up from 4.9% at the end of 2017 to 7.1%.
Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, commented: “The significant increase in structural redevelopment of retail space across 2018 indicates that landlords are starting to review how much retail stock is in the market and how much is required.
“Over the coming months, we expect this to increase and with it will come a redefinition of the high street, shopping centres and retail parks.
“Retail parks had a tough 2018 – the trend for structurally altering units will have a significant impact on retail parks and will bring a diversification of the types of retailers that we’ll see opening in these locations.”