A new report from the Local Data Company predicts a rise in the number of empty shops on the UK’s high streets this year. Weak consumer confidence, growing online sales and rising unemployment are all contributing factors.
The report says that vacancy figures remained stable at 14.3% in 2011, although there were significant regional differences. Stockport had the highest vacancy rate of large centres with over 30%, with St Albans enjoying the lowest with 8.2%.
The report blames changing consumer habits – particularly online shopping – as the primary cause of the decline of high street shops.
“Technology is driving consumer behaviour to a world of engagement, entertainment and the ability to shop where, how and when we like,” said Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company. “Town centres need to adapt to this changing environment if they are to survive and thrive”.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) described vacancy rates as “worryingly high” in many parts of the country and called on the government to reduce business rates, which are set to rise by 5.6% in April.
“The scale of retail failures since Christmas and number of shops standing empty show the effects of high costs and weak demand on retail businesses and the people and places that rely on them,” said Stephen Robertson, the BRC’s director general.