British Towns Lose 6,000 Retail Outlets in Five Years, but London Fares Well
According to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), British towns have seen a loss of 6,000 retail outlets, including shops and restaurants, over the past five years. However, there have been improvements in some areas, with London performing particularly well.
The BRC’s vacancy monitor, compiled in partnership with the Local Data Company, revealed that the vacancy rates across Great Britain reached 13.9% in the three months leading up to June 2023. This is slightly worse than the first quarter of the year but slightly better than the same period in 2022 when the vacancy rate was 14%.
The vacancy rate varied depending on the type of retail outlet. Shopping centers saw no change in their vacancy rate since the beginning of the year, remaining at 17.8%. Retail parks, on the other hand, performed well with a vacancy rate of 8.1%, an improvement from 8.6% in the first quarter of the year.
London stood out as the best-performing area in terms of vacancy rates. The return of tourists and office workers after the pandemic, along with the opening of flagship retail shops, contributed to the capital having the lowest vacancy rate in Britain.
The East and South East regions of England also fared well, while the North East, Wales, and Scotland had the highest vacancy rates. The BRC attributed the closure of businesses and the reluctance of new retailers to open shops to challenges such as pandemic-related closures, rising energy bills, higher borrowing costs, and business taxes known as rates.
The BRC called for a review of the business rates system, highlighting the additional £400 million that will be added to retailers’ bills in April next year. BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson urged the government to freeze rate bills in 2024 to support the much-needed investment in towns and cities.
Overall, while British towns have experienced a loss of retail outlets, London has managed to buck the trend and increase the number of units, thanks to the return of office workers and tourists and the opening of flagship shops.