Store vacancies soar

TOWN centre vacancy rates are ramping up at breakneck speed according to the latest figures published by the Scottish Retail Consortium.

Scotland’s vacancy rate figure hit 12% in the latest SRC Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor covering the four weeks to 26 January – an increase from 11.1% in October 2018. The vacancy rate for the UK as a whole over the same period was 9.9%.

Declining footfall was also found in the latest statistical snapshot of the high street, down 1.9%. High streets were the hardest hit by the footfall decline, down 3.7%, while retail parks dropped 0.7% and shopping centres enjoyed a slither of growth, up 0.7%.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC said: “These results offer few crumbs of comfort for those retailers who have yet to fully embrace multi-channel retailing. The shop vacancy rate spiked once again, to the highest figure for five years, and the fourth successive quarter that the rate has been above 10%. It is troubling that almost one in every eight retail premises in our town centres now lies vacant, more so with retailers’ business rates bills set to escalate by a further £13.2 million this coming April.

“Whilst shopper footfall recorded its best performance for five months, offering a glimmer of light, the fact is it still contracted compared to a year ago, albeit at a less pronounced rate than over the past quarter and indeed year as a whole.

“This is further proof of the profound transformation affecting the retail industry, due to changing shopping habits, rising cost pressures and becalmed consumer spending. Retailers and shopping destinations are clearly going to have to work harder to attract custom through a blend of improvements to service, experience, pricing and promotions. Policy makers can play their part through a more concerted effort to halt and then begin to reverse relentless rises in costs.”