According to the Local Data Company (LDC) the percentage of empty shops in the country’s 650 most popular high streets nationally hit 14.2 percent in December. That is roughly 35,500 vacant properties.
It was a sorrier story in shopping centres with the company claiming the empty shop figure rose to 15.6 percent.
However, Clive Longbottom, a retail analyst at Quocirca warned that the figure could be much higher than the report said.
“A lot of the occupancy levels over the December period will have been temporary, with Xmas card and trash gift stores taking a one-month tenancy to shift stuff as quickly as they can, ” he told ChannelEye. “You also have new ideas being tried – is the “play a piano” store, where a piano has been put into an empty shop and anyone can go in and play it, an occupied store, or is it an unoccupied store that just happens to be used for something else?”
“Is the move away from the shopping malls to the high street one based on rates on the high street being lower, landlords being hungrier for cash and lowering rents, an artifact of shorter rental periods, or a sign that councils have more control over the high street and trying to do the Mary Portas stuff over a short period of time?”
LDC shared similar concerns claiming that as a result of top chains, including Blockbuster, HMV and Republic, going to high street heaven, this figure could rise to around one in six – or 17 percent – of stores being empty later this year.
Longbottom added: “The only way that we will see a true picture is to take a longer term view. The general view of the retail market at the moment is that we can expect to see a lot more failures over the coming months.
“There is not the capacity to replace all the Comets, Jessops, JJBs, HMVs, Blockbusters and so on that are disappearing,” Longbottom said. “A few will go to others as some of the Blockbusters stores have been taken by Morrisons, but overall, we can expect the longer term view to be more empty premises, more boarded up shops, a less appealing look to the retail centres of the UK.”
LDC said the vacancies had also been brought about by the growth of retail parks and the growth of online shopping. A lack of consumer spending was also blamed for the demise.
However, it seems the loyalties of the public are more on the side of the small shop – with the report suggesting Britain favours independent retailers rather than chains.