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One in six empty

Scotland only part of GB to see rise in empty shops

Shop-vacancies-on-Princes-Street

Empty shops in Princes Street, Edinburgh (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotland was the only part of Great Britain where more shops were empty in the last quarter compared with the previous three months.

New data shows that one in six retail premises is now vacant – a six-year high – or 16.4% from 16.1% in Q2.

Across the rest of Britain the vacancy rate has flattened with the overall GB vacancy rate remaining at 14.5%, the same level as Q2.

The overall figures are held up by retailers moving out of the high street to retail parks where they can better support online customers.

The worsening Scottish figures have prompted new calls from the Scottish Retail Consortium for the Holyrood government to take decisive action.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “Scotland’s shop vacancy rate has risen by a fifth this past year and remains above the UK average rate, and it’s far from certain that it has crested.

“This is a vivid reminder of the heavy economic toll of the pandemic and of repeated lockdowns and restrictions.

“The Scottish Government has sensibly shelved a ban on shops opening to customers on New Year’s Day, however these stark figures underline the urgency of the upcoming Scottish Budget taking swift steps to reignite consumer confidence and blunt next April’s full reinstatement of rates.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “While this is the first time in over three years vacancy rates have not risen, they still remain at a record high.

“10% of high street shops and more than 13% of retail units in shopping centres have remained empty for over a year, which is the result of the high costs of opening and running shops in many parts of the country.

“Business rates continue to pose a threat to the future vibrancy of hundreds of towns across the UK and without a reduction in the burden, four-in-five retailers say they are likely or certain to close some of their stores.

“Wednesday’s Budget announcement fell far short of the truly fundamental reform that is needed, meaning we will likely see further loss of shops and jobs and it will prevent investment in many of the areas that need it the most.”

Vacancy rate in the top 650 towns and cities in GB by location

  Current1 Quarter Ago1 Year Ago
RankRegionQ3 2021Q2 2021Q3 2020
1Greater London11.1%11.1%10.0%
2South East12.6%13.3%11.9%
3East of England13.2%14.6%13.0%
4South West14.1%14.8%13.6%
5East Midlands15.7%16.8%14.6%
6West Midlands15.8%17.4%15.3%
7Yorkshire and the Humber16.0%17.4%16.4%
8Scotland16.4%16.1%14.0%
9North West16.5%18.1%16.4%
10Wales17.7%19.5%18.0%
11North East19.7%20.6%18.6%


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