Rise in void retail units

Colliers CRE’s first national retail barometer research report reveals consecutive rises in the number of void retail units since October 2006 across most of the 15 centres in its sample. The research uses void rates as a key indicator. New shopping centre developments at High Wycombe and Liverpool had an adverse effect on overall vacancy levels. Liverpool saw a 7.6 percentage point increase in void units between April and October 2008 while High Wycombe saw a 4.7 percentage point increase over the same period.

Across all 15 centres, the number of retail voids as a proportion of total retail units rose from 12.7% in April 2008 to 14.2% in October 2008. High Wycombe had the highest proportion of void units (23.6%) and Kensington High Street displayed the lowest proportion (2.3%).

Floorspace of retail voids as a proportion of total retail floorspace was 9.4% in April 2008, rising to 9.9% (7.9% vacant and 2.0% available but trading) in October 2008. Rotherham had the highest proportion of void floorspace (17.2%) and Kensington High Street the lowest (2.0%).

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The average size of void units has fallen since the survey began from 2,188 sq ft to 1,884 sq ft, a 14% drop. The size of vacant units (hard voids) has fallen 21% from 2,329 sq ft to 1,841 sq ft, while available but trading units (soft voids) have increased in average size over the same period from 1,883 sq ft to 2,079 sq ft.

Of the 777 vacant units across the 15 centres in October 2008, 43% had fallen vacant within the previous six months and 19% within the previous 6 to 12 months. 18% were vacant at the start of the survey in April 2006. Fashion retailers were the biggest generator of vacant units (23%) in the six months to October 2008, while pub, cafe and restaurant closures were also significant.

Dr Richard Doidge, Head of Research Consultancy at Colliers CRE comments:“Although the number of void units has been increasing steadily over the past two years, the proportion of vacant floorspace has risen only marginally (to October 2008). This is due to the fall in average size of void units and additions to overall retail floorspace stock.”

The centres monitored are Bournemouth, Cardiff, Chippenham, Dundee, High Wycombe, Ilford, Kensington High Street, Lisburn, Liverpool, MetroCentre, Northampton, Oxford Street, Plymouth, Rotherham and Worcester. The centres were selected to provide a cross-section of towns and cities in terms of size, quality of retail offer and geographical location. The next report will be published in May.

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