The national town centre vacancy rate reached 10.2% in April, the highest year on year recorded rate for the month since 2015, new research has shown.
The BRC-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 declined by 1%, shopping centre footfall declined by 2.1%, and retail park footfall increased by 2.2%, compared to April 2018.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “With regular reports of shop closures, it may come as no surprise that town centre vacancy rates rose to their highest level in four years. Empty shop fronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area, decreasing footfall for all those around. This effect can be cyclical, with the long-term decline in footfall pushing up vacancy rates, particularly in poorer areas. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of government policy costs – from spiralling business rates to the apprenticeship levy and more – have also made physical space less cost effective.
“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. If the government is serious about reversing the decline on our high streets, then reforming the broken business rates system would be an essential first step.”