UK retail vacancy rates top 10%

BHS' former Oxford Street store

Retail vacancy rates have topped 10% for the first time since since April 2015, according to new quarterly figures released the British Retail Consortium and research group Springboard.

Vacancy rates are now at 10.1% compared to 9.6% in April. A combination of high business rates and rents and a fall in the number of pop-up shops are behind the rise in vacancies, say experts.

British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson warned of serious consequences if the situation continued. “If property costs in general, and business rates in particular, continue ever upwards, we should all be concerned about the impact on our local communities,” she said.

However vacancy figures at this time of year can be skewed by fewer pop-up shops and short-term leases failing to be renewed, said Springboard director Diana Wehrle. “Between October and January vacancies went down, partly on the back of more pop-up shops. Since then, temporary lets have not become permanent lets. The key thing is to see if pop-ups start increasing again coming into Christmas,” she added.

Recent figures have also suggested that consumers’ increasing preference for online shopping is also having a negative affect on bricks and mortar stores. In the month following the EU referendum at the end of June, online sales jumped by 11.4%, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Over the weekend a prime piece of retail real estate came became vacant as British Home Stores ceased trading on London’s Oxford Street. However the lease for the 106,000 sq ft store has already been sold to Oxford & City Holdings and fashion retailer Reserved is understood to be taking over the store. Some 57 further BHS stores are expected to close in the coming weeks following the business’s high profile and controversial fall into administration.