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Gloucestershire Business News

Britain loses 6,000 shops in five years

Six thousand shops have closed down in Britain in the last five years, according to the British Retail Consortium.

'Crippling' business rates and the impact of lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic have played a key role in decisions to close stores and to be cautious about new openings, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

Figures released for the second quarter of this year show that the vacancy rate for the UK's high streets now stands at 13.9%, up from 13.8% in the first three months.

In the South-West the vacancy rate for the second quarter of this year stood at 13.4%, slightly down from 13.5% in the first quarter and 13.7% a year ago.

Overall in the UK, shopping centre vacancies remain unchanged from the first quarter at 17.8%, but high street vacancies increased 0.1% to 13.9%.

Helen Dickinson said: "The past five years saw Britain lose 6,000 retail outlets, with crippling business rates and the impact of the Covid lockdowns a key part of decisions to close stores and think twice about new openings.

"To inject more vibrancy into high streets and town centres, and prevent further store closures, the Government should review the broken business rates system. 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.

"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. "

Lucy Stainton, commercial director at Local Data Company, said: "The headline findings from Q2 are unlikely to have come as a surprise to anyone, with economic pressure from rising interest rates and inflation already mounting as the year began.

"Current challenges to businesses have been compounded by tightening discretionary spend and a dip in confidence among consumers. The economic headwinds that have made the headlines have filtered into the data, reflected in a slight rise in the overall vacancy rate.

"The high street has seen some of the most notable impacts, with rising rents and increased competition putting pressure on small and independent businesses, who may struggle to meet high operating costs. Across all location types, vacancy has reached critical levels, highlighting an ever-increasing need to redevelop units to breathe life back into retail destinations."

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