Footfall improved in August but October was poor
The British Retail Consortium and Springboard said the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.3 percent last month, the highest figure since the companies had begun the monitor in July 2011.
Northern Ireland, with a vacancy rate of 20 percent, Wales with 15.1 percent and the North and Yorkshire with a vacancy figure of 14.6 percent, were recorded the highest regions for empty shops.
However, more are visiting shopping centres with the survey finding footfall in the three months to October was 0.4 percent lower compared to a year ago, better than the 3.3 percent fall in the previous quarter.
Footfall weakened on the high street over the quarter with a 0.9 percent decline, compared with a rise in both out-of-town (0.2 percent) and shopping centre locations at 0.1 percent.
The Olympics were said to have helped in August, rising for only the third time since the monitor began.
The West Midlands, with 4.2 percent and Greater London with 1.4 percent were the only regions to show increased footfall.
Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said the new high in empty shop numbers “sets alarm bells ringing”.
He said this was the worst vacancy rate since the survey began in July 2011 and confirmed that financial challenges for both customers and retailers “were far from over”.
Robertson added that the problem could be a result of many retailers battling stagnating sales and rising costs, pointing out that next year’s threatened business rates increase would 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,” he added.
Steve Booth, CEO, Springboard said the reason for Octobers’ dismal figures could be that the month is traditionally difficult for retailers as school holidays are over and winter weather sets in.