1 in 10 high-street stores are now empty in the UK, the highest vacancy rate since 2014
- One in ten UK high street stores are vacant, new data suggests – the highest level since 2014, when 13 major retailers went into administration.
- London and the surrounding area has recorded the country's biggest rise in empty shops.
- Footfall has dropped during the pandemic, and e-commerce continues to threaten high street retailers. A third of all retail sales in May were online, according to the UK's national statistics authority.
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More UK high street stores are now shuttered than at any time in the past six years, data from retail analysts Springboard suggests.
The vacancy rate on high streets was 10.8% in July, the highest since January 2014, when 13 major UK high street retailers entered administration, shutting more than 700 stores.
This was up from 9.8% in January, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain.
The number of shoppers on UK high streets in August was 38.3% lower than the same time last year, Springboard data showed, and the continued rise of e-commerce is putting pressure on physical shops. In May, a third of all retail sales were online, according to the Office for National Statistics — up from one-fifth in February.
Many big-name brands have shut their stores during the coronavirus crisis, including sandwich chain Pret A Manger, which announced the closure of 30 restaurants in July, and fashion retailer M&Co, which confirmed the closure of 47 stores in August.
London and the surrounding area recorded the biggest rise in store vacancies — the number of empty shops there jumped by nearly two-thirds between January and July.
Clothing stores have been hardest hit by falling sales during the pandemic, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in July. Although overall retail sales volume rose by 3% between February and July, driven by a boom in e-commerce, clothing sales dropped 25.7%.
Even before the pandemic, UK high street stores were struggling. Four years after the closure of British department store chain BHS, more than a quarter of its sites remain unoccupied, according to data from the Local Data Company.
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