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Higher rates add to costs

Scotland sees biggest shrinkage of shops in high street

More shops are lying empty (pic: Terry Murden)


Retailers are pointing the finger of blame at ‘government-imposed’ costs after new figures showed Scotland had the highest number of shop vacancies across Britain.

They say the Scottish government’s business rates surcharge is adding £14 million a year to the cost of running retail units.

Figures from the Local Data Company show Scotland suffered 520 shop closures last year followed by London with 498 and Yorkshire and the Humber with 361.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: The volume of shop closures is concerning and comes at a time when retailers are facing significant changes in consumers’ shopping habits, weak growth in retail sales, and burgeoning public policy induced costs.

“Indeed the growth in government-imposed costs – such as business rates, the national living wage, rising employer pension contributions and the apprenticeship levy – is outstripping that of shopper spending.

“The devolved administration’s rates surcharge on medium sized and larger commercial premises affects 5,000 stores, and costs retailers £14 million a year, which only serves to make it even more expensive to operate shops in our town centres. It is little wonder that one in nine retail premises is empty leaving gap-toothed high streets with vacant units.”

LDC’s latest bi-annual Retail and Leisure Trends Report for the whole of Britain shows that all retail categories experienced decline and the vacancy rate increased for the first time since LDC started tracking it in 2012.

However, this was only a very marginal increase at +0.2% over the entire year, settling at 11.2% – the same rate as 12 months earlier at the end of 2016.

Barbers and beauty salons saw the biggest increases in 2017, with barbers taking the top spot for growth, growing by +624 units in 2017, overtaking Tobacconists (including vaping stores) who grew the most in number in 2016 and have since moved down to 3rd place.

The sub-category closing the most units across was pubs (-747), with their continued decline across just about beating the closures of bank branches (-711).

Vegetarian is out and vegan is in, according to LDC data which shows a huge 70% decrease in vegetarian restaurants and a 61.5% increase of vegan restaurants.

There was good news for some retailers though, with the top five brands experiencing growth over 2017; Lloydspharmacy (+116), Betfred (+135), Subway (+62), The Co-operative Funeralcare (+59) and Greggs (+51).

Lucy Stainton, senior relationship manager at The Local Data Company commentedThere is no denying that retail is going through an unprecedented era of change but as our latest research highlights, it’s crucial to get underneath the overarching trends to understand the detail beneath this, giving us a glimpse of our future high street.”

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