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Shop vacancy rates hit a record high in February

Published: 23 March 2012
According to the Local Data Company, the GB shop vacancy rate rose to 14.6% in February, its highest in more than three years.
Shop vacancy rates hit a record high in February
The new rate marked an increase of 0.1% since January 2012. Reports suggest that many retailers who suffered poor sales over Christmas were unable to recover during the tough beginning-of-the-year trading conditions.

The report revealed town centre vacancy rates in Great Britain stabilised at 14.3% during the second half of 2011 but then rose to 14.5% in January 2012 before showing a further increase to 14.6% last month.

The LDC data represents the top 650 town centres out of 2,700 towns and cities, retail parks and shopping centres visited by the company. In September it was revealed that many retailers had decided to cut their losses in poor-performing locations such as Stockport and Dudley.

Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: "The latest increase is not unexpected as post Christmas occupancy levels drop and retailer failures continue with Game Group, with 600 shops, the latest. It is a timely reminder to the government, who are due to respond to the Portas Review this month, of the significant challenges facing town and city centres up and down the country."

The LDC is planning to release a proposal in the near future on how the government can tackle the vacancy rise with a 'town tool kit'.

Mr Hopkinson added: "[The town tool kit] empowers all the key stakeholders ('town teams') to be informed on the key insights of a town - occupancy, vacancy, footfall and consumer needs. The fact that none of these are aligned or indeed understood in most towns means that the chances of planning for success are significantly reduced."

The report comes just a day after the ONS revealed retail spend had dropped by 0.8% between January and February 2012. Sales of household goods were highlighted as one of the worst casualties of consumer caution during this period.

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