THE Scottish Retail Consortium has flagged a near-13 per cent vacancy rate for shop premises in March, even before the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailers’ representative revealed the figures in a new monitor launched in partnership with the Local Data Company called the SRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor.

It will track changes to the retail landscape as they evolve over the coming quarters which will include coronavirus impact.

Some retailers including Debenhams have already said they will not reopen stores including large-scale outlets like the one at Glasgow Silverburn.

The Scottish vacancy rate across all shopping locations was 12.9% in March 2020, with the rate sitting at 12.4% for high streets 15.6% for shopping centres, and 9.4% for retail parks.

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Scotland compared poorly against the rest of country, with the UK vacancy rate at 12.2%.

The persistent Scottish vacancy rate – or premises empty for two or more years – was 6.2%.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, SRC head of policy, said: “These figures provide an essential baseline to assess the impact of coronavirus on vacancies in Scotland. Regrettably we commence from a difficult position, with the overall 12.9% vacancy rate reflecting the ongoing challenges physical retail has felt in recent years.

“Delving into the detail, there were small upticks in all categories, yet the general picture is more than a tenth of premises remained vacant prior to the onslaught of coronavirus."

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He said: “With that in mind, it’s vital Scottish ministers take evidence based decisions when it comes to allowing stores to reopen.

“Retailers will be well placed to be part of any initial phased reopening of commerce, with pharmacy and food retailers already able to share good practice and guidance on social distancing with those preparing to reopen to ensure colleagues and customers will be safe in store.”

Lucy Stainton, of LDC, said: “Given the pandemic, as well as the company voluntary arrangements and administrations that have already taken place, plus the huge challenge to cash flow for all of the non-essential businesses forced to close, we are predicting that the vacancy rate will increase on a much steeper trajectory than originally anticipated this year.”