Town centre woes continue as Easter on High St underwhelms
UK town centre vacancy rates rose to their highest level in four years in April, according to research by BRC and Springboard.
The national town centre vacancy rate was 10.2% in April, a further increase on the previous quarter rate of 9.9%. Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, says: “Empty shopfronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area, decreasing footfall for all those around. This effect can be cyclical, with the long-term decline in footfall pushing up vacancy rates, particularly in poorer areas. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of Government policy costs – from spiralling business rates to the Apprenticeship Levy and more – have also made physical space less cost effective.”
High Street footfall declined by 1%. This was a lesser decline relative to the previous year when it fell by 4%. There was a distortion in the year-on-year footfall results for April due to the early Easter in March last year. However, the expected bounty as a result of the holiday occurring in April this year did not provide enough of a boost to deliver positive figures for the month.
City centres are in danger of becoming ghost towns, a committee of MPs warned earlier this year. The government should therefore "level the playing field" for High Street retailers by raising taxes on online players like Amazon, it said.
The MPs also called for lower business rates and more regeneration in town centres. The government said it was investing to ensure High Streets "adapt and thrive for generations".