Economy

BRC survey reveals shop occupancy rates at worst since records began

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed that levels of high street occupancy are at the worst since records began.

According to the BRC, more than one in 10 shops are empty, leaving town centre shop occupancy vacancies at an average of 11.3 per cent – the worst since surveys began in July 2011.

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Big high street retailers have been feeling the pinch of the economic climate and now Comet joins the ranks of JJB Sports, Clinton Cards and Game in retailers who are closing high street stores.

The worst region affected was Northern Ireland with a vacancy rate of 20 per cent, while Wales and North Yorkshire came in second worst with 15 per cent of town centre shops currently vacant.

The BRC’s director general, Stephen Robertson, said the new figures would set “alarm bells ringing” and that retailers were also being hurt by higher prices and overheads, saying: “Many retailers are battling stagnating sales and rising costs, and next year’s threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse.

“If the government wants to breathe life back into our town centres and ensure the retail industry can play its full role in job creation it needs to freeze rates in 2013,” he added.

The BRC survey also said that overall footfall of shoppers hitting the high streets dropped by 0.4 per cent since last year in the three months leading to October, with a big drop-off in numbers in October itself with numbers declining by 2.6 per cent.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week reported retail sales fell 0.8 per cent in October to add to the worrying trend for high street retailers.

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