Empty shops Image: Wikimedia

The number of empty UK high-street shops has increased to over 10% for the first time since April 2015, according to new figures.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)- Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor found that the town centre vacancy rate in July increased for the second time this year to 10.1%, from a previous 9.6%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, BRC, said: “The increase in the number of empty shops is an unwelcome reminder of the heavy burden of property costs. After a long run of shop vacancies being below 10 percent, seeing them rise over that threshold once again will be a bitter disappointment to many.

“The retail industry is undergoing a transformation driven by technology which is changing the way we shop. Shoppers are demanding more a personalised service and a seamless interaction between physical and digital.

“With UK property taxes higher than anywhere else in the developed world they act as a disincentive to operate physical space. [The] figures should serve as a wake-up call. If property costs in general, and business rates in particular, continue ever upwards, we should all be concerned about the impact on our local communities up and down the country.”

Overall footfall in July was 0.4% down on a year ago, which is better than the 2.8% fall in June.

However, footfall in shopping centres continues to decline, falling 2.0% in July, following on from a 2.3% fall in June.

The best preforming region is Wales, with a reported 1.7% increase in footfall and only 11.9% town vacancy rate.

Scotland has only 7.5% of empty high-street stores, compared with 15.3% in Northern Ireland. However, the Scottish region reported a decline in overall footfall of -1.9%.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director, Springboard, said: “The April to June quarter can prove irregular, as post-Christmas pop ups and temporary stores disappear from the high street and the EU Referendum and political and economic uncertainty of the last quarter will have deterred some retailers from taking on leases.

“The next quarter’s figures will be the ones to watch to get a clear picture on any continued increase in vacancy rates, which would be concerning for town centres across the UK."