According to the British Retail Consortium and Local Data Company, vacancy rates fell to 13.9 percent in the third quarter of 2022.
It’s not much progress from last quarter, with a 0.1 percentage point decrease and 0.6 percentage point drop from the same period last year.
Shopping mall store vacancies fell to 18.8 percent, previously at 18.9 percent, meanwhile on the high street, numbers declined to 13.9 percent from 14 percent.
Vacancy rates across London, the South East and the East of England were lowest, while the North East, followed by Wales and the West Midlands had the highest rates.
“The overall shop vacancy rate improved for the fourth consecutive quarter; however, vacancies remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. Some locations are benefitting from a pickup in tourism and a gradual return to offices, but levels of footfall are still below those of 2019,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.
“Higher costs are already pushing up prices and the industry faces a government imposed extra 800 million pounds business rates bill from April 2023,” she added, explaining that many retailers will have to make tough decisions about whether to invest in new stores or close existing ones.
“With a decrease in store closures compared to the same time last year, in parallel with an increase in openings, vacancy rates have continued to decline as we look to the end of 2022,” said Lucy Stainton, commercial director of the Local Data Company.
“Independent businesses in particular have continued to flourish as consumers remain loyal to their local high streets,” she added.
Capitalizing on the slow-growing vacancy rates is Marks & Spencer, which says it will desert its Oxford Street flagship if it cannot demolish and replace its existing store with a 10-story retail and office block.
M&S has shot down calls from environmentalists and conservationists to refurbish the current Marble Arch store, describing that course of action as “unsustainable” and “undeliverable.”
The retailer warned that if it were to depart, the decline of shopping on Oxford Street would “accelerate dramatically.”