Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has urged the government to extend business rates relief beyond April as the number of retail stores lying vacant rose to 13.7% in Q4 2020.
The plea follows figures published by the consortium which show that all retail locations saw an increase in vacancies in Q4, with shopping centre vacancies increasing to 17.1% from 16.3%.
Dickinson has also called for an extension of “the moratorium of aggressive debt enforcement”, something she says is necessary if the government wants to prevent “unnecessary shop closures” and the “loss of tens of thousands of jobs”.
She said: “With the country in and out of lockdown, the forced closures of thousands of shops, and consumers reluctant to visit town and city centres, it is unsurprising that the number of shuttered stores continues to rise.
“Over the past two years, one in every 50 outlets has permanently closed, and this number will only go up. The big increase in vacancy rates during the crucial golden retail quarter, when demand is usually high, serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact.”
She added: “Social restrictions and their knock on effect on consumer appetite for fashion, has meant that shopping centres are still faring the worst due to their high proportion of clothing outlets.
“What’s more, due to economic uncertainty, many retailers have paused their plans for future investment in new stores.”