Shop vacancies ‘at six-year high amid coronavirus pandemic’

One in six Scottish shop premises now lies empty, according to Scottish Retail Consortium.

Shop vacancies ‘at six-year high amid coronavirus pandemic’ iStock

Shop vacancies in Scotland are at a six-year high amid the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

The Scottish Retail Consortium-Local Data Company (SRC-LDC) Vacancy Monitor shows a vacancy rate of 15.3% for the first quarter of 2021.

In the last quarter of 2020, the rate was 14.4% and it is now 2.4 percentage points higher than the same point of last year (12.9%). The figure was 12% in the first quarter of 2016.

One in six Scottish shop premises now lies empty, according to Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale.

He said: “The maelstrom wrought by the pandemic and the forced closure of stores over the past year is laid bare in these figures.

“Permanent shop vacancies in Scotland pierced through 15% for the first time, with the vacancy rate reaching a new six-year high.

“The troubling deterioration in the vacancy rate over the past year has affected all types of retail destinations, with the uptick in empty units in shopping centres especially marked.

“Almost one in six Scottish shop premises now lies empty, above the UK average rate, and it’s far from certain the vacancy rate has crested.

“It’s a vivid reminder of the economic toll of the pandemic and of repeated lockdowns and restrictions.

“This has been the most bruising period for many of Scotland’s retailers, and even with shops now permitted to reopen the fact is large swathes of the sector face an uncertain future.”

Shopping centre vacancies increased to 20.1% from 18.2% in the previous three months, while on the high street vacancies were 13.9% – up 0.4% on the last quarter.

Retail park vacancies increased to 12.9%, up from 11.9%, however it remains by far the lowest rate.

Lucy Stainton, Local Data Company director, said: “The number of vacant units has continued to increase in the first three months of this year across the country, despite much of the market being temporarily closed for the second lockdown.

“With this in mind, and despite these percentages increasing significantly, we would argue that we have not yet seen the true impact of these lockdowns and this will only be obvious once the market has had the chance to reopen fully.

“We have seen a number of household names announcing further store closures or indeed disappearing from our high streets entirely, showing how challenged physical retail continues to be.

“Shopping centres have been particularly exposed to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, principally having a lower proportion of ‘essential’ retailing as well as being exposed to categories which are in decline such as fashion, department stores and casual dining.

“This being said, the early indications from the first few days of the ‘unlocking’ have shown there is still significant demand for physical retail and eating out.

“Hopefully as consumer confidence continues to build momentum with reduced Covid-19 cases, more of the population vaccinated and warmer weather, further fall-out from the pandemic might be mitigated somewhat.”

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