Vacancies rising

One in six shops empty amid new calls for action

Shop vacancies on Princes Street (pic: Terry Murden)

One in six shops are now vacant in Scotland and shopping centre across the UK are seeing around 20%, or one in five units unoccupied.

Retail parks have also been impacted from the loss of anchor stores and their vacancy rate is rising quickly.

The figures prompted retail leaders to renew calls for action to reduce costs, including drastic reform of the business rates system, and warn of an even higher toll of casualties as financial support is withdrawn.

The vacancy rate in Scotland in the second quarter of 2021 rose to 16.1% from 15.3% and is now at a six-year high, up by a quarter over the past year. Shopping Centre vacancies increased to 21.5% from Q1’s 20.1%.

The figures coincide with the opening of the £1 billion St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Despite attracting a line-up of top brands, including some new to Scotland, there is concern that it may struggle to be fully occupied.

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Commenting on the vacancy ate, David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium said “it is far from clear that it has reached its apogee”.

He added: “The deterioration affected all destinations, with shopping centres faring especially poorly and retail parks once again performing relatively better.

“It is encouraging that two big government reports are scheduled to be published soon – on city centre recovery and on a town centres action plan. The measures which result cannot come soon enough.”

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