The retail sector has pleaded for additional help to cut costs, as industry figures suggest 5,000 stores have been lost, on a net basis, during the coronavirus crisis to date.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said one in seven stores across Britain were empty at the end of March.
The figures, compiled with the Local Data Company (LDC), show that the overall vacancy rate rose to 14.1% in the first three months of the year, as the latest round of lockdowns forced stores ” non-essentials ”to close their doors again. .
For comparison, the vacancy rate stood at 13.7% in the last three months of 2020.
There were increases across the board – with the highest empty store rate in malls at 18.4%.
The High Street was in line with the overall rate, while the retail park vacancy rate was 10.6%.
The BRC used the publication to demand that England follow Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in extending holiday prices for retail until 2022.
It is currently due to end of June.
The industry body, which has long argued the tax was “broken,” said the continued review of corporate tariffs must lead to permanent cost reductions if remaining stores and jobs were to be better protected.
A Sky News tracker shows that retail has been the sector most affected by the jobs crisis.
The first three months of the year saw confirmation that two of the biggest names on the high street were going to disappear.
Sir Philip Green and Debenhams’ Topshop empire face online-only future after remnants shared between digital operators Boohoo and ASOS with the loss of thousands of jobs on the streets.
BRC Managing Director Helen Dickinson said of the vacancy figures: “There is a significant regional disparity in vacancies, with the north of England showing a larger increase compared to other parts of the country.
“Shopping centers, many of which have been forced to close during much of this pandemic, have fared less well than other outlets, with more than 12% of units empty for a year or more.
“With complete business rate relief and the moratorium on aggressive debt enforcement ending in England this summer, many stores may never reopen.”
There is cause for optimism as separate data covering visits to shopping destinations showed a strong rebound while the in-store operator only Primark reported a “record” trading last week.
LDC Director Lucy Stainton said of the reopening of shops, bars and restaurants: “Early indications from the first weeks of the ‘unlock’ have shown that there is still significant demand for physical retail. and catering.
Hopefully, as consumer confidence continues to gain momentum with the reduction in COVID-19 cases, more of the population vaccinated and warmer weather, the additional fallout from the pandemic could be something. little attenuated. “