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Glimmer of hope for commercial retail property sector

With recent good economic news on growth and employment, the commercial retail property sector has also seen a glimmer of hope for the future.

The rate of retail closures has slowed as the country opened up after the pandemic, but they still outpace the number of new openings, according to a new survey.

The slowdown provides some relief for the commercial property sector as pent-up demand from the lockdown has given some impetus to retail sales. As a result, more consumers have returned to the high streets of towns and cities.

Over 8,739 chain stores disappeared from UK retail locations in the first six months of 2021 compared to 3,488 shops which opened, a net decline of 5,251. This is lower than the 6,000 in the first half of 2020, when 11,100 stores shut during the lockdown.

The survey from The Local Data Company indicated a significant shift in consumer habits with turning to online shopping which has had an impact not only on the high street retailers, but also areas like banks, charity shops and car dealerships.

In contrast retail parks have fared better, with larger premises like DIY, electrical and electronic and home furnishings allowing them to outperform others since the start of the pandemic.

Covid safety fears may have been a factor as people travelled to retail parks in their cars, avoiding public transport. The larger out-of-town units also allow for better social distancing measures.

Town and city shopping, which is more difficult to access by car, are more than likely to host fashion retailers and chain restaurants, which were among the hardest hit.

With more people working from home and many likely to continue to do so, footfall in cities is yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Support from the furlough and business rates relief schemes have mitigated the problem and kept some in business, while a rent moratorium has prevented landlords from evicting operators due to non-payment of rent or arrears. These measures have allowed stores to continue trading even in harder hit areas.

The picture was more confusing in Scotland and Wales, which both had longer lockdowns, and led to closures being delayed.

The Local Data Company tracked 205,565 outlets operated by multiple operators across Great Britain, between 1 January and 30 June 2021.

For help and advice with commercial property matters, please get in touch with our expert team today.

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