Empty shops rate hits record new research shows

The proportion of shops in Britain lying empty has hit a new record of 14.6% in February, according to figures compiled by the Local Data Company.Empty shops rate hits record new research showsVacancy rates had begun to stabilise at the end of 2011, but they have risen in January and February, the LDC said.

It is further evidence of a difficult start to the year for retailers.

There was an increase in the number of respondents describing their economic situation as bad.

Cautious consumers are choosing to pay off credit cards and loans, rather than take on new borrowing, the data indicate.

This reflects official retail sales data for the month, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday.

Sales volumes declined by a larger-than-expected 0.8% in February, the ONS said.

The Local Data Company said the rise in empty premises was “not unexpected” as retailers continue to cut back and even go bust.

Most at risk towns and cities

Source: BNP Paribas Real Estate ranks retail centres according to likelihood of more shops closing and the place’s ability to withstand a weakening economy

“It is a timely reminder to the government, who are due to respond to the Portas Review this month, of the significant challenges facing town and city centres up and down the country,” said LDC director Matthew Hopkinson.

It will require a change in the law to allow landlords to take part in these initiatives, which are currently funded by increases in business rates.

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