Pressure is still increasing on the Government to take action on business rates after the latest national town centre vacancy rate reached 10.2% last month, the highest year on year recorded rate since 2015.
The research, using the British Retail Consortium Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor, also showed that total footfall declined by 0.5% during April, compared to the same month last year. High street footfall dropped by 1% and shopping centre footfall declined by 2.1% compared to April 2018.
The double whammy of figures won’t make easy reading for the Government which may have been hoping to buy a little breathing space with the latest inquiry into business rates and its effect on the economy.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said the figures came as no surprise with town centre vacancy rates encouraging a long-term cyclical decline as empty shop front deterred more shoppers from an area. She lay the blame squarely on the cumulative impact of government policies with special mentions for spiralling business rates and the apprenticeship levy.
She was adamant, to save the high street the “broken business rates system” would have to be reformed adding: “For many retailers, business rates remain the single biggest tax imposed by government. They are a levy on physical space that is paid in full regardless of whether a firm is in profit or in loss. Importantly, they are also borne disproportionately by retailers who represent 5% of the economy yet pay 25% of all business rates. Whilst the rate in the pound adopted in the calculation of rates is significant at over 50p, there are many reliefs and exemptions available that, as the RSA President describes, corrupt the system.
And it seems the North and Scotland are faring far worse than the rest of the country. A recent story run by retail trade magazine Drapers listed the 10 worst performing high streets in the country. Based on a report that looked at vacancy rates and how available stores met local needs, the North of England had the dubious honour of filling five of the 10 slots, with a further two claimed by Scotland. Wales had one with the other two remaining places going to London locations. The Top Ten unfortunate addresses that no retailer would wish to appear on were:
1.Shields Road, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
2. Stretford, Greater Manchester
3. Kirkby, Merseyside
4. Harrow Road, Greater London
5. Tonypandy, Wales
6. Walton Road, Liverpool,
7. Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
8. Renfrew, Scotland
9. Burnt Oak, north London,
10. Annan, Dumfries and Galloway