Overall shop vacancy rates in the UK for the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 have remained the same from the previous quarter at 13.8%, according to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The flat growth rate was despite an improvement of 0.3 percentage points compared to the corresponding period in 2022.

Shopping centres witnessed vacancy rates of 17.8%, an improvement from 18.2% in Q4 2022.

Vacancy rates at UK high streets also remained flat at 13.8% from the previous quarter in Q1 2023. 

The rates for Retail Park category improved to 8.7% during the quarter, despite witnessing a 0.3 percentage point reduction from Q4 2022. The category continues to register the lowest vacancy rate.

During the quarter, Greater London, Southeast and East of England posted the lowest vacancy rates, while rates were highest in the Northeast, followed by Wales and the West Midlands.

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By GlobalData

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “The vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2023 saw no improvement as cost pressures made many retailers think twice about investing in new stores.

“Despite shopping centres holding the highest proportion of empty units compared to other locations, it saw the largest quarterly occupancy increase thanks to the success of outlets as well as recent efforts to repurpose empty units, especially in the Northeast.

“While Northern regions saw the biggest uptick in net openings, they continued to lag behind the rest of the UK with the highest vacancy rates in the country, laying bare the North-South divide.

“With stubbornly high inflation and huge cost pressures facing business, retailers will continue to be cautious about future investments.

“Any regulatory burdens from Government will only force retailers to make difficult decisions about whether they can open new stores, or if they must close existing ones.”