Empty shops

The number of empty shops in town and city centres has risen to its highest level in four years, figures show.

The British Retail Consortium found that the vacancy rate on the high street was 10.3% in July, the highest rate since January 2015.

Overall retail footfall dropped 1.9% in July, which was the worst performance for over seven years. High street footfall dropped 2.7% as shopping centres saw a 3.1% drop. Retail parks, however, saw shopper numbers rise 2.1%.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at industry organisation Springboard which co-created the report, said: "Consumer demand is ever-more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out of town destinations where footfall rose by 1.2% in July reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap.

"They not only offer consumers accessible shopping environments with free parking and easy click and collect opportunities for online purchases, but many also combine this with an enhanced experience that includes coffee shops and casual dining restaurants, and some also have leisure facilities."

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "If the government wishes to avoid seeing more empty shops in our town centres then they must act to relieve some of the pressure bearing down on the High Street.

"Currently, retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of all business costs and 25% of all business taxes. The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable.

"We need an immediate freeze in rates, as well as fixing the transitional relief, which leads to corner shops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London."