Over 10 per cent of town centres still vacant

The high streets of the UK are still under occupied, with vacancy rates for the start of 2013 at 10.9 per cent. However, this still represents an improvement on the record high of 11.3 per cent seen in October last year.

In terms of footfall, the statistics are less encouraging, with the British Retail Consortium and Springboard Footfall reporting a 4.6 per cent drop in high street footfall between January 2012 and the same month this year. Footfall hasn’t seen such a dramatic decline year-on-year since last April, when figures fell by 6.9 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “It’s good news that the vacancy rate is slightly down on October 2012’s high. However, the UK average masks widespread variations, with Wales recording a particularly high rate when compared with the previous quarter.”

In a bid to halt this decline, the BRC believe that vacancy rates on the high street could be reduced if the government opted to freeze business rates for the month after next. It is feared that the rising costs of running a business is a constant threat to the security and future health of retailers.

Although the BRC are concerned by the figures, their worry is tempered by the fact that January was a particularly poor month for weather, whilst sales figures for the month have shown that a reduction in footfall did not correspond to a decrease in sales.

“Although the mid-month snow did take a toll on the number of people willing to brave the elements, particular with journeys to out-of-town retail parks, it seems many of us stayed one step ahead of the big chill and bought more on fewer shopping trips,” the spokeswoman added.

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