High street shops ‘stage comeback’

THE percentage of empty shops in the UK has fallen back from a record high, helped by the benefit of warmer weather on high street footfall.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said its town centre vacancy rate stood at 11.1 per cent in July – lower than April’s peak of 11.9 per cent – while footfall was up 0.8 per cent on a year ago amid strong demand for summer food, fashion and outdoor items.

High streets reported the greatest improvement in shopper activity, with growth of 2.3 per cent outperforming 0.9 per cent for out-of-town locations and a 2.3 per cent fall in shopping centres.

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Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at BRC’s survey partner Springboard, said: “It seems that occupiers are starting to return to the high street, suggesting a greater degree of optimism over future trading prospects.”

She said there was an uplift in footfall of one per cent over the quarter a whole, which is likely to have contributed to the drop in the vacancy rate.

However the survey continues to show dramatic regional variations.