Vacancy rate fall boost for the high street

The equivalent of 400 new shops reduced the vacancy rate on British high streets to the lowest level since 2010 last month, research revealed.

The rate in August fell to 13.3 per cent from 13.4 per cent the month before, the lowest figure since before June 2010, according to The Local Data Company.

The overall retail and leisure rate, which also includes pubs, restaurants and cinemas, also fell to 11.8 per cent from 11.9 per cent over the same period.

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Matthew Hopkinson, a director at The Local Data Company, said: “The drop in vacancy rates to pre-June 2010 levels is significant and reflects the changes taking place in Britain’s town centres in response to the challenges thrown at them since 2009.

“This improvement equates to over 400 new businesses opening in August.

“It also reflects an increase in demolished and properties under development which may be as a result of change in use or reconfiguration of existing retail space.”

A closer breakdown of the figures show that while retail vacancies fell 0.1 per cent, leisure vacancies lifted 0.05 per cent to 7.7 per cent.

Mr Hopkinson said the rise in leisure vacancies may be due to an “increasingly saturated market” with significant growth coming from large chains.

Last week a CBI report found retailers felt their most optimistic about sales prospects in more than a decade.

The latest monthly distributive trades report found more shop owners thought sales would rise over the next three months than fall, giving a balance of plus 25, the highest figure since May 2002.

The CBI survey also found that sales growth last month rose at the fastest pace in six months, with a balance of plus 37.

Supermarkets, chemists and carpet and furniture stores experienced the strongest growth, with specialist food and drink stores seeing the steepest fall.