What high-street vacancy rates really mean

While retail vacancy rates in the UK are declining, one in every seven shops is still empty. So is this decline all good news, or is it hiding some potentially bad news?

Interesting article on the BBC on the Local Data Company’s latest report on retail vacancy rates in the UK.

14% of British shops are empty – that’s one out of every seven shops…

Is this decline in vacancy rates actually good news? Well, yes, but…

  • YES – low vacancy rates are vital, as they promote higher footfall, make areas more attractive for shoppers (and pedestrians), and low rates increase the success of surrounding retailers in a ‘halo’ effect
  • BUT – a focus on vacancy rates obscures wider questions about the sort of retailing offer you get on the High Street.

What is clear is that local retailing isn’t working any more for many people.

The comments are actually far more interesting than the article, which is a fairly typical faux-news article where a rewritten press release poses as analysis.

Commenters are quick to jump on the North/South divide in vacancy rates (London rates are one third of those in the ‘North’), but the more interesting questions are about the type of offer that ‘flourishes’ on the modern High Street – lots of charity stores, bakeries, pound stores and betting shops, and increasingly less and less for the non-affluent or non-mobile.

So there are more shops on our streets – but not necessarily more good shops on our streets.