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Empty shop numbers continue to rise

EmptyshopsThe number of empty shops on the country's high streets has continued to rise in the first quarter of the year.

During the first three months of the year, 21% more chartered surveyors claimed the amount of unoccupied shops across the UK had gone up, rather than gone down, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' UK Commercial market Survey. This was met with a fall in the amount of retailers looking to lease new premises, as a net balance of 13% more respondents reporting drops in demand.

With the high street still suffering, expectations for future rents continued to slip, and a growing number of surveyors (a balance of 17%) believe retail premises to be losing value.

Every part of the UK saw the amount of unoccupied retail space rise, with London recording the largest increase in the first three months of the year, followed by the Midlands. Meanwhile, the subdued trend in demand is visible in most regions suggesting little prospect of an early turnaround.

Meanwhile, other areas of the commercial property market – such as office and industrial space – saw demand for premises strengthen slightly with no major increases in empty floor space.

'The high street has been struggling for some time now and the pressure doesn't look like easing up on retailers and landlords any time soon. The generally gloomy economic picture means that pricing remains intensely competitive. And though fears of a triple dip recession have now dissipated, the flat trend in wage growth will continue to act as a drag on the high street,' says Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist.

'Significantly, other areas of the commercial property sector are beginning to look a little healthier, with tenant demand for office space and industrial units edging upwards. However, it remains to be seen whether this improvement can be sustained in the absence of a more meaningful pick-up in economic activity.'