Empty shop numbers rise as Covid continues to bite

Store closing

Fashion shops have been closing, including chains such as Debenhams

The number of empty shops in Britain has continued to rise as retailers struggle with the effects of the Covid pandemic, the British Retail Consortium has said.

Shopping centres have been hardest hit, with nearly one in five units empty, the industry group said.

The north east of England had the highest vacancy rate, followed by Wales and the north west.

The Covid pandemic has accelerated a shift towards online shopping.

Many shops were shuttered during lockdowns, although retail sales in June were near pre-lockdown levels, as the reopening of shops released pent-up demand.

However, fashion retailers have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the closure of well-known High Street brands such as Debenhams and Topshop contributing to vacancies.

But it is shopping centres which had the highest vacancy rate from April to June.

“It comes as no

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