Business rates blamed for thousands of shop closures – BRC

Business rates and the pandemic lockdown are being blamed for 6,000 shops that have closed down in the UK in the last five years, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Dubbed ‘crippling’ by BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said business rates was one of the key reasons why shops had shut their doors, as well as being reluctant to take on new premises.

Statistics for the second quarter of this year show that the vacancy rate for the UK’s high streets  stands at 13.9%, up from 13.8% in the previous quarter. Shopping centre vacancies remained static at 17.8% over the same time period, but high street vacancies went up slightly  by 0.1% to 13.9%.

The highest vacancy rates were in the north-east and the Midlands, followed by Wales and Scotland.

Dickenson said: “Currently, there’s an additional £400m going on retailers’ bills next April, which will put a brake on the vital investment that our towns and cities so desperately need.”

“London’s vacancy rate remains the lowest, improving over the last quarter thanks to the opening of new flagship stores, more office workers, and tourists visiting the capital.”

“The government announcement earlier in the week about making changes of use to vacant units easier is welcome but it’s important local councils have a cohesive plan, and don’t leave gap-toothed high streets that are no longer a customer destination and risk becoming inviable. Government should go one step further and freeze rates bills next year.”

The BRC announcement comes on the back of other statistics released that claimed up to 40% of shops will need to be reinvented over the next five years as demand for physical retail wanes.

The need to repurpose retail space was named as the biggest concern for local authorities, landlords, developers and other town centre management professionals as part of a survey by their trade body Revo.

The research showed 61% of those surveyed believed that between 20% and 40% of retail space needs to be reinvented in the next five years for leisure, hospitality, health or civic use, with 12% of those surveyed claiming even more space than that will need to be repurposed.