In the fourth quarter of 2020 the Scottish vacancy rate increased to 14.4% from 14% in the third quarter – and up by 1.4% on the same point in 2019.
The latest Scottish Retail Consortium and Local Data Company figures showed that shopping centre vacancies increased to 18.2% from from 16.8% in the third quarter last year.
On the high street, vacancies remained at 13.5% in the fourth quarter.
Retail park vacancies increased to 11.9%, up from 10.4% in the third quarter, however they remain the location with by far the lowest rate.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, the overall UK vacancy rate increased to 13.7%, from 13.2% during the previous quarter.
This was the 10th consecutive quarter of increasing vacancy rates, stretching back from the second quarter of 2018.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said that this second successive quarterly spike in the vacancy rate means that one in every seven stores in Scotland now lies empty.
“These figures don’t include the announcements over recent days of further store closures by some household names – and the likelihood is things will continue to worsen in the coming months.
“Scotland’s shops and retail destinations will only survive with the patronage of the public – the extent to which retail remains the cornerstone of our town and city centres and its ability to continue to employ hundreds of thousands of Scots will also depend on the decisions made by policymakers.
“Shop vacancies are at a six-year high, footfall has slumped, and non-food stores have seen revenues plunge by a third – while a return to trading is crucial, it will not be a panacea for the industry.
“That’s why we hope to see a recovery plan from government to help get retail motoring again, including some semblance of the potential route back to re-opening the sector and out of lockdown,” he added.
Lucy Stainton, head of retail at the Local Data Company, explained that hundreds of thousands of stores have been struck by changing restrictions and many of these remained temporarily closed in the intervening periods between lockdowns.
“Therefore these businesses are not reflected in the permanent vacancy figures, but with each round of restrictions, these ‘frozen’ units are less likely to reopen and so we’re predicting the compound effect of each lockdown being visible in later figures.
“Added to this, with recent announcements from the likes of Debenhams and Arcadia, the size of the stores coming onto the market will present a real challenge given the likely lack of demand for larger high street units.
“Looking further out, the increase in availability of space will provide opportunities for new businesses, however we must prepare ourselves for the picture to get worse before it gets better.”