'Heavy toll' on retailers as one in six shops lies empty

Scotland's vacancy rate blamed on people working from home and the cost-of-living crisis.

Scottish Retail Consortium says one in six shops in Scotland is lying empty iStock

One in six shops is lying empty in Scotland amid claims the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis is having a “heavy toll” on retail.

New figures show that 15.7% of shops have been vacant for three consecutive quarters.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has now issued a warning that high streets may struggle to “ever fully recover”.

It also said retailers were being affected by people continuing to work from home.

Where are the vacancies?

Shopping centres: 20.5% (of shops are empty)

High streets: 14.8%

Retail parks: 9.8%

SRC director David Lonsdale said there was “little sign” of improvement in the vacancy rate.

He said: “Scotland’s vacancy rate has plateaued over the past three quarters and seems stubbornly stuck at a fifth higher than during pre-pandemic times.

“Whilst there has been a small improvement over the past year, the fact is Scotland’s store vacancy rate is above that for Great Britain as a whole, with one in six stores lying empty.

“The volume of empty units is especially marked in shopping centres.

“The fallout from the cost-of-living crunch and pandemic is exerting a heavy toll on retail destinations, as does what increasingly looks like a sustained shift towards hybrid working.

“This could make it trickier for store vacancy rates to ever fully recover.”

Despite a slight improvement since 2021, Scotland has the eighth highest number of empty shops in Britain.

Data shows that 15.7% have remained vacant for three consecutive quarters – compared to 18.2 in the north-east of England, the worst-hit area.

Lucy Stainton, director of the Local Data Company, which published the Vacant Monitor alongside the SRC, said new shopping habits had formed during the pandemic.

She said: “Retail parks continue to outperform other location types, with consumers favouring these drive-to locations and larger format units.

“The Christmas trading period seemed to indicate that consumers were favouring, and returning, to stores, alongside their online spend.”

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