Encouraging signs for the high street says new report, but empty shop numbers are still significantly up on pre-2009

Shop vacancy rate lowest since July 2010

The Local Data Company has revealed the shop vacancy rate has decreased to 13.9 per cent in December 2013, down from 14.1 per cent in November 2013.

While only a modest drop, it is the first time since July 2010 that town centre shop vacancy rates in Great Britain have been below 14 per cent. The number of empty shops dropped from 22,407 to 21.975 over November and December in the top 650 town centres.

For comparison, the vacancy rate in December 2008 was below six per cent.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “December’s drop in the shop vacancy rate is very significant and reflects the more positive outlook that we have seen over the last few months. Whilst December is the month to take occupation of a shop it is wider changes that have resulted in this drop below 14 per cent which we have not seen for over three years.

"Adminstrations were down in 2013 and those that occurred did not have the store numbers that we saw back in 2009 when Woolworths closed over 800 shops. Landlords are more flexible in terms of lease lengths which has led to the ‘Pop Up Shop’ phenomenon. Empty shops in an increasing number of instances (78 units in December) are being converted to leisure which is growing. Those that are long term vacant with little or no prospects are being demolished/redeveloped (95 units in December).”

Last year the data firm told BikeBiz that independent bike shop numbers were rising.

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