Huge variations in shop vacancy rates across UK

The short and medium view of this report is that this is unlikely to improve significantly due to the current economic climate, the rise of alternative sales channels and the number of shops in the country.

Town centre vacancy rates in Great Britain have stabilised at 14.5% during the first half of 2011.

The North South divide apparent at a centre level is reinforced when looking at a regional analysis.

All the southern regions see an average vacancy at or below 11% while the Midlands and North range from just under 13% in the East Midlands to 16% in the North West.

The top ten worst-performing large centres are in the West Midlands and the North while seven out of the top ten best large centres are in the South.

Among the medium sized centres the situation is the same with the top ten centres all in London and the South while eight out of the ten worst-performing centres are in the North. The only exceptions are Dartford with a vacancy rate of 26.3% and Newport in South Wales with 26%. The best performing medium-sized centres run from Sevenoaks with a vacancy rate below 5% to Falmouth at 6.6%

As far as the smaller centres covered are concerned, the best performers are again mainly in London and the South East. At first glance the top ten worst performing small centres looks different with Margate (36% vacancy) and Wandsworth (31%) at the top of the table.

However further down the list the picture becomes more familiar with the likes of Runcorn, Corby and Bootle all seeing poor vacancy rates.

There is increasing evidence that the retailer pain is not spread evenly between the High Street and the Shopping Centre. The latest results from several of the big, retail-owning property companies show their revenues have been surviving any tenant difficulties with ease. Solid rental growth, footfall and occupancy levels demonstrate that prime properties are taking market share away from other locations.

Retailers are looking to close older and poorer performing outlets where possible, and relocate into new stores in the bigger and better centres, streets and warehouses to bolster diminishing profits. The more they come under pressure, the greater will be the need to rationalise portfolios of stores into the best-performing locations, which should continue to benefit the larger companies with prime portfolios at the expense of high streets and secondary centres elsewhere.

The large centres (those with 400+ shops), see an average vacancy rate of nearly 17% at the half year, but this is in a range that runs between 6.4% in Shepherds Bush to 27.7% in Stockport.

Medium centres (with between 200 and 399 shops) fare slightly better with an average of just over 14% and small centres (with between 50 and 199 shops) better still at just over 12%.

Small centres see higher levels of volatility than do medium and large centres, mainly because there are fewer shops in each centre.

The most significant difference however is geography. Centres in the South – London, the South East, the South West and Eastern regions – see much lower vacancy rates on average than to those in the Midlands and the North.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company said: "This report shows how fragile the British High Street is in parts of the country. The pressures it faces are increasing and therefore one needs to be realistic in one’s approach to each and every one of these towns if they are all to have a future.

"The stark reality is that Great Britain has too many shops in the wrong locations and of the wrong size. The diversity of shop vacancy rates is clear evidence that a local approach is required that ties in with consumer needs and the realities of modern retailing. The market still has significant corrections ahead and the impact of these will vary significantly according to location."

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One thought on “Huge variations in shop vacancy rates across UK

  1. Scottavinabeer

    I disagree that the UK has too many shops and in the wrong places. The first victims of a recession are not estate agents but retailers. Vacant retail units can be directly & greatly effected by local enterprise incentives particularly business rates discounts and exemptions. Central government have to acknowledge the difficulties surrounding a small business in its infant years. It is difficult in a normal market never mind in recession. We require support for businesses in their first two years.

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