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UK Economy

Rising retail vacancies hit town centres

A couple walk past closed shops in Birmingham, central England May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters) - Vacancy rates for town centre shops in England and Wales jumped from 4 percent in mid-2008 to nearly 12 percent at end-June, with more retailers going out of business during the recession, a report said on Thursday.

The damage is spread across the two regions and affects all levels of the retail hierarchy from the largest regional centre to the smallest high street, retail research firm Local Data Company (LDC) said in its mid-year report.

The worst-hit areas were big regional centres in the UK’s north and midlands, with Derby, Blackpool and Liverpool seeing more than 21 percent of their retail capacity vacant, while vacancies in central London are at 13 percent, it said.

The British Property Federation (BPF), which represents UK landlords, said the worsening vacancies supports its call for the government to re-introduce tax relief for unused commercial properties, which was cancelled in April.

“Landlords are keen to do everything possible to help their occupiers stay afloat and what we need from ministers is an end to its tax on empty properties,” BPF spokesman Andrew Teacher said in a statement.

Shops in the worst-hit personal goods and services sector lost 197 stores in first-half 2009, while 190 clothing and footwear shops were shut, LDC said, as the recession forced the collapse of chains such as Woolworths and Zavvi.

(Reporting by Daryl Loo; Editing by Andrew Macdonald)

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