Although vacancy rates remain below the national average, Liverpool BID Company has said the city could be in a “very different position” in early 2021 if Christmas trading is impacted.
In mid-October, the Liverpool city region was the first in England to enter tier three, the Government’s strictest Covid restriction level, before the whole country was raised to the same level at the start of November.
Although the city centre area has bucked a national trend on rising vacancy rates, seeing its number of empty units in the city centre fall below the national average to 8.4% in October 2020, the BID said that a time of year that sees its levy-payers bring in 30% to 50% of annual revenue is crucial.
According to data from Springboard, vacancy levels in Liverpool’s Retail & Leisure BID area, which encompasses the retail pitch outside of Liverpool ONE, have dropped in the past two years, falling from 12.1% in January 2018. Nationally, vacancy levels have gone the other way, from 8.9% at that time to 11.3% in October 2020.
The wider North West figure has seen its vacancy rate rise to 12.5% from 11.4% two years before.
Other data providers are in broad agreement: according to the Local Data Company’s most recent Retail & Leisure Market Analysis report, issued this month, the national “all vacancy rate” rose to 13% for H1 2020, with the retail-specific figure hitting 14.2%, the highest level since 2012.
Jennina O’Neill, chair of the retail & leisure BID, and centre manager at Metquarter, said: “We’ve seen that Liverpool has bucked the national trend, mainly due to Liverpudlians who have stayed loyal and supported independents. There’s been a positive shift and refocus to shopping locally.
“Businesses across Liverpool have worked hard to ensure that their premises are Covid-safe and this work continues, with a view to retailers across the city being able to reopen on 3r December with extended opening hours to minimise queues, extended return dates and additional click and collect.”
Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, added: “Liverpool has performed strongly in what has been an intensely challenging year. The city went into Tier 3 and a national lockdown in a strong position, but without the vital Christmas period, the story could be very different at the start of 2021.”