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Shop vacancy rates top 10% in July

Vacancy rates for UK retail sites reached 10.1% in July the BRC Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor for the month showed.

The monthly report is compiled by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard, and is based on an online survey of town centre managers across 450 UK locations.

The vacancy rate increased by 0.5 percentage points between June (9.6%) to July. It showed a similar quarterly increase from 9.6% in April.

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle commented that the April to June quarterly figures can “prove irregular”, as post-Christmas pop-ups and temporary stores disappear from the high street.

“The European Uunion referendum and political and economic uncertainty of the last quarter will have deterred some retailers from taking on leases,” she added.

“The next quarter’s figures will be the ones to watch to get a clear picture on any continued increase in vacancy rates, which would be concerning for town centres across the UK.”

One positive aspect of the UK’s decision to leave the EU was a temporary increase in overseas customers on the British high street as a result of a favourable currency exchange rate. The footfall uplift of 0.3% from June to July was a welcome respite after the worrying 3.7% fall in the previous month.

But when taking into account other retail locations, including shopping centres and retail parks, overall footfall still fell by 0.4% in July. Shopping centres were hit particularly hard, suffering a 2% downturn on the June figure. This followed 29 months of consecutive growth for out-of-town locations.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said the footfall figures for July “remain lacklustre”. She went on to warn that, given other factors putting pressure on retailers’ profits, there could be bigger trouble ahead.

“Today’s figures should serve as a wake-up call. If property costs in general, and business rates in particular, continue ever upwards, we should all be concerned about the impact on our local communities up and down the country,” she concluded.

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