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Retail vacancy rate rose 11.3% in October – the highest rise since April 2013

Tom Bottomley
05 November 2020

The coronavirus impact on bricks and mortar retail has become even more evident by a further rise in the UK retail vacancy rate in October, 2020, to 11.3%, the highest since April 2013 and a significant increase from 9.8% in January, 2020.

Vacancies have risen in every area of the UK from January, 2020, apart from in Scotland and Wales, with the vacancy rate in Greater London at 9.4% - almost double what it was in January, 2020, when it stood at 5.3%, according to the latest data from retail experts Springboard.

Covering the four weeks from 4-31 October, 2020, footfall also weakened by -31%, compared to -28.2% in September, which had improved from -30.8% in August.

When it comes to high streets, footfall dropped by -39.8%, while in shopping centres it dipped -33.1%, and by -11.9% in retail parks.

Not surprisingly, with non-essential retail set to close for four weeks from today, footfall is predicted to plummet by -80% compared to 2019 during Lockdown 2.

A massive 61% of shoppers plan to spend more online over Christmas this year, but 64% are planning to spend less overall. Only 10% of shoppers plan to increase the number of gifts they buy to help alleviate the doom.

Despite the easing of restrictions over the summer, and the "Eat Out to Help Out" scheme, at the end of October, 2020, footfall in UK retail destinations remained a third lower than in October 2019.

The month was characterised by the introduction of greater restrictions, with the three-tier approach in England, the two week ‘firebreak’ in Wales and the closure of hospitality in Northern Ireland.

Springboard Insights Director, Diane Wehrle, comments: “During the second month-long lockdown in England, we expect to see footfall plummet by around -80% from last year.

November 2020 was set to be a major month in the retail calendar, with footfall increasing week-on-week during the month of November for the last three consecutive years, so the loss of this trading opportunity will be irreversible for many businesses.

“We knew before the second lockdown was announced that it was going to be a tough Christmas for retail, but now spending lost in stores in these key trading weeks will simply not be recovered. So, we expect the shop vacancy rate to rise even further in 2021.”

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