Overall retail vacancy rates in the UK have fallen for the third consecutive quarter, according to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The vacancy rate dropped to 14.0% in the second quarter (Q2) of this year, but improved by 0.1% compared with the previous quarter (Q1) and 0.5% from the same period of last year. 

During the quarter, vacancy rates in shopping centres declined to 18.9%, down from 19.0% in Q1 2022, while high street vacancies also decreased to 14.0%, improving slightly from 14.1% in the prior quarter.

The South East, London and the East of England recorded the lowest vacancy rates, while the North East posted the highest regional rates, followed by Wales and Scotland.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Vacancy rates continued to travel in the right direction, with the third consecutive quarter of improvement, though rates remain almost two percentage points above pre-pandemic levels.

“There remains a significant North-South divide, with the North of England, along with Scotland and Wales, having a higher proportion of empty shops, though this gap is narrowing, with greater improvement being seen in Northern England.

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“Vacancy rates tend to lag behind other metrics in responding to economic changes, meaning that the vacancy rate is likely to improve further – slowly returning towards pre-pandemic levels.”

A survey by the BRC last year showed that more than 80% of retailers said they were ‘likely’ or ‘certain’ to have to close shops if the burden of business rates was not lowered.

Last month, data from the group revealed that total retail footfall in the UK for last month declined by 10.5% on a year-on-three-years basis.

Footfall in the country improved by 2% from May and was above the three-month average decline of 11.8%.