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UK retail space loses millions of sq ft

A total of 55 football pitches worth of retail space has been lost in England and Wales in the past year, driven by consumers’ preference for online shopping, new research shows.

In the year to 31 March, 4.2 million sq ft of retail space was permanently taken out of retail use across the country.

Reading was hit the hardest – losing 4.2% (215,000 sq ft) of its retail floor space – followed by Nuneaton and Bedworth in the Midlands, which lost 7.6% (183,000 sq ft). Kensington and Chelsea in London came in third place: retail space was down 2.1% (151,000 sq ft) compared with the year before.

Law firm Boodle Hatfield, which carried out the research, said: “The shift in consumer spending to online has accelerated the loss of retail space in the last year, as more landlords decide to change the usage of vacant retail space rather than continue to try and rent that space out to retailers.

“The slowdown in consumer spending combined with the increases in business rates have reduced the appetite of successful retailers to pick up the space that has become available through retailer insolvencies.”

However, cities such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham have all reported increases in retail space, including space that is yet to be let, during the period – up 334,000 sq ft, 269,000 sq ft and 194,000 sq ft respectively.

Head of property at Boodle Hatfield, Simon Williams, said: “City and town centres can still generate increasing footfall. Shops on major high streets aren’t going to disappear – what is changing is how much effort landlords now need to put in in order to curate a range of retail brands.”

The 20 areas that have recorded the biggest reductions in retail floorspace in the last year are:

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