Britain’s shop vacancy fell to 12.9% in September, which is the lowest level since April 2010 according to the Local Data Company (LDC).
But the vacancy rate for leisure outlets (food, beverage and entertainment, including betting shops) rose from 8.13% in August to 8.16% in September – its highest level since LDC began tracking leisure in 2013.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “Clearly this is very good news that vacancy rates are at their lowest level for over five years. There are a number of reasons for this, and these will vary by specific location, but ultimately consumers have more money in their pockets as a result of wages being higher than inflation and employment levels improving. There is also a greater focus on the living wage as well as zero hours contracts. This, combined with all time low oil prices and interest rates, makes for an improving retail economy.
He continued: “As ever, the devil is in the detail. And one has to ask the question: is this real improvement in terms of all the empty shops being reoccupied or is it something else? The answer is mixed, in that while we are seeing certain business types expanding, it is not across the board. What the data is showing is that last month over 400 shops (0.1% of the total stock) were removed from the overall stock as a result of change of use, demolition or redevelopment. This is good news as it shows that structural change requires big decisions and regeneration of places through uses other than shops.”
The town vacancy rate dropped by -0.1% in September, while the shopping centre vacancy rate slipped by -0.2% to 14.6% and retail parks declined by -0.1%.