Town centre shop vacancy rates have fallen below 14% for the first time since July 2010.
The small drop from 14.1% in November to 13.9% in December is described as “very significant” by Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, which compiles the monthly figures.
Hopkinson 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. While December is the month to take occupation of a shop, it is wider changes that have resulted in this drop below 14% which we have not seen for over three years."
Administrations 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 or redeveloped, LDC suggests.
“December’s drop in the shop vacancy rate is a significant step in what one hopes is the final stages in the significant rebalancing of our town centres to meet the needs of the modern consumer,” said Hopkinson.