Empty shop rate rises across Britain as spending drops

Boarded up shop in Bath
Image caption An average of 14.6% of shops now remain empty across Britain

The proportion of shops lying empty has increased in every region in Britain bar London between January and June, according to figures compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).

An average of 14.6% of shops now remain empty across Britain, according to LDC.

LDC says a dramatic drop in consumer spending, which it calculates is now back at 2002 levels, is partly to blame for the high vacancy rate.

Higher online sales and retail space expansion are also factors, says LDC.

However, one group criticised the methodology of the survey, saying the boundaries used by LDC to define a town centre had not been updated since 2004.

The Association of Town Centre Management called the data "fatally flawed".

"They use an out-of-date set of criteria for establishing town centre boundaries and, as a result, they don't reflect the reality on the ground," said Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the ATCM.

'Inexorable and irreversible decline'

The North West of England was the worst performing region overall, with a 20.1% vacancy rate, according to LDC.

London, which saw the proportion of vacant shops fall to 10.1% in the first half of the year from 10.7% in the last six months of 2011, was the only region to report a drop in the number of empty shops.

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Media captionRetailer Caroline Jackson: Once the shops start to close people stop coming to an area

LDC, whose findings are based on visits to 145,000 shops between January and June this year, found retail parks had the lowest overall vacancy rate, at just 8.1%.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson added that there was "some way to go" before there was likely to be positive change in the proportion of empty shops.

"Fundamental national economic issues are being played out at a local level," added Mr Hopkinson.

Olympics 'hit shops'

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said the survey indicated the need for a rethink on the redevelopment of vacant property.

Ms Peace said this would require the property industry, including investors, to accept new lower value options for properties.

"The alternative is a period of steady, inexorable and irreversible decline," she warned.

Separate figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggested that retail sales in the UK in August fell 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from the same month last year.

"The feel good factor from the Olympics failed to inspire spending," the BRC said.

Meanwhile, online shopping grew 4.8% in August, the lowest increase since the BRC started collecting the data in October 2008.

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