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More than 10% of British shops vacant, survey shows

Thu, 3rd Sep 2020 00:01

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - More than one-in-ten British
shops now stand empty, reflecting recent widespread closures
which are partly the result of the coronavirus crisis, a report
on Thursday showed.

Researcher Springboard said the vacancy rate rose to 10.8%
in July, from 9.8% in January 2020, reaching its highest level
since January 2014 as Britain's store-based retail sector,
outside of food, was hit by a lockdown to counter the pandemic.

Already weak players such as Laura Ashley, Debenhams, Oasis
Warehouse, Cath Kidston and Monsoon/Accessorize have all gone
into administration, with the loss of thousands of jobs, while
other major retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Boots
and John Lewis, are also closing stores.

Britain's store groups were already struggling with high
rents and business taxes, tight margins and online competition
before the pandemic took a grip on the country's economy.

Springboard said vacancies rose in six out of ten areas, but
by far the greatest increase was in Greater London, where the
vacancy rate rose by nearly two-thirds.

"This result brings into sharp focus the difficulties faced
by large cities in attracting customers back and the impact of
this on our bricks and mortar retail landscape," Springboard
director Diane Wehrle said in a statement.

Springboard said that although shopper numbers improved in
August for the third consecutive month, they were still down
30.8% from the same period in 2019.
(Reporting by James Davey;
Editing by Alexander Smith)

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