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UK retail vacancy rates show sign of improvement in first quarter of 2022

9th May 2022

The most recent data, compiled by the British Retail Consortium and the Local Data Company, on UK retail vacancy rates could come as good news for Britain’s high streets and town centres, as it suggests vacancy rates across all UK retail locations improved in the first quarter of 2022.

The report found that the number of empty shops in retail locations across the UK continues to fall, with the average vacancy rate across all retail locations falling to 14.1% at the end of the first quarter of 2022, compared to 14.4% in the final quarter of 2021.

However, the report found the average vacancy rate across all UK retail locations is still yet to recover to its pre-pandemic level of approximately 12%.

Shopping centres continue to have the highest proportion of empty shops compared to other retail location types. The current vacancy rate across UK shopping centres is 19%, a significant improvement compared to last summer when the average vacancy rate across UK shopping centres was 19.4%.  However, shopping centres still have a long way to go to reach their pre-pandemic vacancy rate of 14%.

The high street vacancy rate also showed signs of improvement in the first quarter of 2022, currently standing at 14.1%, compared to 14.5% almost a year ago.

Retail parks continue to be a popular destination among retailers and had the lowest vacancy rate of all retail location types with an average vacancy rate of 10.6%, 0.9% down on a year ago.

In terms of regional analysis, the northeast continues to be the region with the highest proportion of empty retail units in the UK, despite having seen the biggest fall regionally in vacancy rates last quarter compared to all other UK regions.

Additionally, London continues to be the region with the lowest vacancy rate, despite having seen a slight increase in its regional vacancy rate, in quarter one of 2022 (11.1%) compared to the final quarter of 2021 (11%).

These latest findings come as the Government is expected to  announce in tomorrow’s Queen speech that commercial buildings left vacant for more than year will be entered into a “rental auction” in a move the Government hopes will “rejuvenate” town centres across the UK and reduce retail vacancy rates further than those reported in the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium and Local Data Company. However, whether this move will have the desired effect the Government hopes it will, remains to be seen over the coming months.

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