Shop closures hit record level as ‘golden quarter’ lost to COVID
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 29/01/2021
A record percentage of retail space is lying empty as the coronavirus crisis places intolerable pressure on businesses, according to industry data.
The latest BRC-LDC vacancy monitor, which excludes stores forced to shut their doors because of COVID-19 restrictions, found 13.7% of all shops were empty in the final quarter of 2020.
Store vacancies had stood at 13.2% in the previous three months to September – a time when the sector had hoped to be in a position to recover lost sales in the run-up to the so-called golden quarter of Christmas.
But a renewed tightening of restrictions UK-wide to control the spread of the virus, including lockdowns, since has meant that many retail businesses missed out on the chance to fully cash in.
Retail parks fared best with no change at 10% though shopping centres saw a surge from 16.3% to 17.1% in its vacancy rate.
High street vacancies increased to 13.7% from 13.3% in the previous three months.
The British Retail Consortium warned that continuing curbs, even with government financial support, would force more stores to pull down their shutters for good as rent bills mount up.
They are set to include all Debenhams sites as the brand is snapped up by online-only rival Boohoo and the 444 UK sites within Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia empire that includes TopShop.
Sky News revealed on Thursday how Boohoo was also in talks to snap up Arcadia brands that its major rival ASOS did not want as the carving up process prepares to inflict more jobs misery on the high street.
Debenhams and Arcadia employ around 23,000 staff collectively – the vast majority of them store-based roles.
A Sky News employment tracker already shows the retail sector to be worst affected by pandemic pain.
BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said it was clear the industry needed further support to recover including an extension to business rates relief.
She said: “With the country in and out of lockdown, the forced closures of thousands of shops, and consumers reluctant to visit town and city centres, it is unsurprising that the number of shuttered stores continues to rise.
“Over the past two years, one in every 50 outlets has permanently closed and this number will only go up.
“The big increase in vacancy rates during the crucial golden retail quarter, when demand is usually high, serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact.”
© Sky News 2020