[Press Release] Vacancy rates in limbo as fourth quarter begins: Improvement has flattened – stays flat

Britain’s retail vacancy rate has now varied from 12.3% by no more than 0.1% in the past eight months, decreasing just -0.1% in October from 12.4% in September.

The combined, all-vacancy (retail and leisure) rate remained unchanged at 11.2% for the fifth month in a row. It has also stayed within 0.1% of the current rate for eight months.

Improvements in the rates for both had been evident until late spring and downward momentum seemed to be well established until that point in the year. The retail vacancy rate is now -0.6% below the same month in 2015, while the leisure rate is virtually unchanged over the same period.

The all-vacancy rate is down by just -0.4% over the past twelve months.  

The key driver of the weakening in improvement has been a -15% fall in reoccupations of vacant premises in the latest half-year in comparison to the previous six months. Forces that had tended to increase vacancy over the same period, on the other hand, remained virtually unchanged.

The slope of falling retail vacancy from its last peak of 14.6% in September 2012 has now flattened. The plateau remains more than twice as high as its pre-crash base.

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Fig 1. GB vacancy rates 2013-2016 (Source LDC)

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at LDC commented: “Five months is an unusually long time for vacancy rates to remain static. Looking at the figures, the causes are clear enough – the weakening in re-occupations and openings of new shops over the past half year while net closures have remained at about the same level.”

He added: “The dynamics of the market may be muted at present, producing stable figures, but they will in time reassert themselves; they always do. The question now is in which direction vacancy rates head when they start to move again – up or down?”

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