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November 23, 2012

Number of vacant retail properties reaches new high

The vacant retail property count in the UK has reached a new high. The findings of the latest Vacancies Monitor, published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), show that the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.3% in October 2012 (including high streets and shopping centres) – the highest figure since the Monitor was established.

The research shows some major national and regional differences – in Northern Ireland the figure was 20.0%, in Wales it was 15.1% and in England, the North & Yorkshire recorded the highest vacancy rates (14.6%).

Footfall in the three months to October was 0.4% lower than a year ago, but this was better than the 3.3% fall in the previous quarter. Footfall weakened on the high street (dropping by 0.9%), while out-of-town and shopping centre locations saw a slight improvement.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "This new high in empty shop numbers really sets alarm bells ringing. It's the worst vacancy rate since the survey began in July 2011, and confirms that financial challenges for both customers and retailers are far from over.

"Many retailers are battling stagnating sales and rising costs, and next year's threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse. If the Government wants to breathe life back into our town centres and ensure the retail industry can play its full role in job creation, it needs to freeze rates in 2013."

The impact of online

And as electronics retailers Comet closes its doors, VoucherCodesPro has conducted a flash poll that reveals that consumers think online retailers are to blame for the demise of big high street names. The poll of 2,491 consumers found that 88% blame online-only retailers for the recent demise of Comet.

When asked to identify which specific retailers consumers felt were to blame, Amazon topped the poll with 61% of the votes, followed by eBay with 28%. And when asked, "Why do you think online-only retailers can charge less for products than high street retailers?" 62% selected the option "because they pay less tax."