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UK store vacancy rate improves for third consecutive quarter


// Store vacancies improve for third quarter in a row, research finds
// High streets, retail parks and shopping centres in the UK all achieved higher occupancy in the second quarter

New research has found that the national store vacancy rate has improved for the third quarter in a row.

High streets, retail parks and shopping centres in the UK all achieved higher occupancy in the second quarter, according to the BRC-LDC vacancy monitor.

The overall vacancy rate of 14% was a 0.5 percentage point improvement year-on-year and up 0.1ppt on the previous quarter.

READ MORE: UK retail sales fall to a rate ‘not seen since depths of pandemic’

The high street vacancy rate of 14.0% compared to 14.1% in the first quarter, while in the shopping centre vacancy rate edged down from 19% to 18.9%.

In retail parks, a 0.4ppt improvement from the first quarter resulted in a vacancy rate of 10.2%.

“Vacancy rates continued to travel in the right direction, though rates remain almost two percentage points above pre-pandemic levels,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“There remains a significant north/south divide, with the north of England, along with Scotland and Wales, having a higher proportion of empty shops, though this gap is narrowing, with greater improvement being seen in northern England.

“Vacancy rates tend to lag behind other metrics in responding to economic changes, meaning the vacancy rate is likely to improve further – slowly returning towards pre-pandemic levels. However, government policy also has a big impact on the viability of shops.”

She said research indicates that “unless the burden of business rates is brought down, more than 80% of retailers said they were likely or certain to have to close shops”.

Dickinson added: “The recent consultation on the design of the transitional relief scheme – a flawed system within business rates that could cost retailers over £1bn in three years – is an opportunity for the next prime minister to make meaningful change for retail locations and the local communities they support.”

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