One in ten shops will stand empty by February as the crisis on the high street pushes store vacancy rates to record levels, according to new research.
Property consultancy firm Experian expects UK vacancy rates to rise to 15 per cent, or 135,000 outlets, by the end of 2009 – the highest ever recorded.
It said small market towns would be the hardest hit as retailers continued to crumble under the strain of high costs and falling consumer demand. The prediction comes after a savage Christmas season for the high street, which saw several big name businesses collapse.
Woolworths, the largest casualty, closed the last of its 807 stores yesterday, with the loss of 27,000 jobs. The failed retailer’s shops were closed in batches throughout the final weeks of December after selling off stock, fixtures and fittings at discount prices.
On Monday administrators for childrenswear chain Adams announced the closure of 111 stores and 850 redundancies. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said the firm’s remaining 160 outlets would remain open while efforts were made to secure a sale.
Experian said 90,000 shops could be vacant by next month as price pressures overcome retailers, forcing cuts in store numbers or administrations.
This would represent a surge in shop closures, from the current seven per cent rate to 10 per cent by February.
Jonathan de Mello, director of retail consultancy, said the loss of large chains such as Woolworths would leave a significant gap in small market towns and could have a knock on effect.
“Smaller retail destinations, in particular market towns, will be worse affected,” he said.