The British high street has been in a reported fall from grace over the past few years, and the latest annual report from LDC seems to back that up.
Particularly, the run up to Brexit saw an increase in the number of shops closing where it reached a peak at the time of the referendum in mid 2016. The final quarter of the year, the most important for many retailers, however, saw more shops opening and closing and the positive trend has continued into 2017. 2016 saw a net loss of 1,650 shops which equates to just under 5 a day.
The research also found that England has the lowest national vacancy rate at 11.0 per cent, followed by Scotland at 11.9 per cent and Walesat 15.2 per cent. Of the three only Wales is not showing consistent improvement. Of theEnglish regionstheNorth Westhas the highest vacancy rate at 15.3 per centwhileLondonhas the lowest at7.4 per cent.
Retail Parks have gained more occupied units than any other type of location (up 314) yet contain only one in forty stores in the country, while stand-alone/fringe location retail saw the greatest net loss of stores at -1,603. Shopping Centres continue to improve most in vacancy (14.8 per cent to 13.2 per cent) followed by Retail Parks (6.6 per cent to 5.7 per cent) and Town Centres (11.7 per cent to 11.2 per cent). Large Centres (over 400 units)have the highest vacancy rate at 12.1 per cent, followed by Medium Centres (200-399 units)at 10.7 per cent and Small Centres (under 200 units) at 8.6 per cent.
Matthew Hopkinson of LDC commented: “It was clear at the halfway stage in 2016 that both openings and closures had slowed sharply by the date of the EU referendum vote. Openings had dropped off even more rapidly and that key measure, the gap between the two, had generated a net loss of nearly 2,000 retail operations in the six months to the summer.”
He continued: “In a year of surprises, what followed was a bump after the slump. Both openings and closures rose back to early-year levels in the autumn, but this time openings had the upper hand and began to correct the net losses of the mid-year trough. It was not enough to fill the gap, but by Christmas it had begun to repair the damage.”
Turning to vacancy rates he said: “The gradual inching-down of the headline LDC vacancy rate which began in 2012 came to a halt in the middle of the year. This eventually began to show improvement as 2016 ended and that downward trend has been re-established in the early months of 2017.”
He added: “The relationships between the structural shifts between online and offline non-food shops have been taken as straightforward, but maybe they are not. Both have risen since 2008 and online sales continue to take a larger market share, but vacancy has been heading down, albeit gently, since 2012. The rate of growth of online can also be overestimated: at its current growth that segment of the market would not represent half of the retail market until 2030.”