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One in eight shops vacant

More empty shops expected from virus fallout


One in eight shop units are vacant (pic: Terry Murden)

Retail experts are forecasting a spike in vacancies as the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is felt.

One in eight shop units are now standing empty and in the first three weeks of the third quarter analysts have already measured a 0.2 percentage point increase.

“So we can see this will be a sustained trend,” said Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at The Local Data Company.

“Towns which will be hit the hardest will be those with a vacancy rate higher than the GB average pre-COVID-19 and those with a low number of ‘essential’ retailers which would not have been able retain as much footfall during lockdown.

“At the same time we are tracking an increase in the amount of retail property which is being redeveloped for other uses, such as office or residential.”

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The Scottish shop vacancy rate across all shopping locations was 12.9% in Q2 2020, the same rate as seen in Q1 and slightly worse than the GB rate of 12.4%.

The vacancy rate was 12.4% for High Streets (12.4% in Q1); 15.8% for Shopping Centres (15.6% in Q1); and 9.5% for Retail Parks (9.4% in Q1). 

David Lonsdale, director at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The upheaval wrought by coronavirus has yet to wash through these figures, which is unsurprising given most shops have been shuttered for much of the past quarter and were permitted to re-open only in the last few weeks.

“That said, even prior to the pandemic and the tumult of the past few months, one in every eight stores in Scotland lay empty, a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges facing the industry over recent times. 

“Scotland’s shops and retail destinations will only survive with the ongoing patronage of the public. The extent to which retail remains the cornerstone of our high streets and can continue to employ hundreds of thousands of Scots will also depend on the decisions made by parliaments and governments.

“Government support for retail during the current crisis has been significant and rapid. But with retailers’ revenues falling short, more support is likely to be required – on rent payments which for many have been accumulating, and on business rates in order to avoid next Spring’s ‘reverse cliff edge’ when 100% rates are scheduled to be re-instated.” 

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