Vacant leisure sector plots reach record high during pandemic

Lily Canter
·2-min read
Byron Burger went into administration earlier in the year. Credit: Getty
Byron Burger went into administration earlier in the year. Photo: Getty

The leisure sector is still reeling from the impact of coronavirus with vacant plots at a record high.

And the second UK lockdown which comes into force on Thursday 5 November will only prolong the pain into Christmas and beyond, according to a new report by the Local Data Company.

Figures from January to September 2020 reveal the loss of 1,263 leisure units across the UK, which is higher than the same period in 2018 when a flood of casual dining chains went into administration.

This year dozens of restaurant chains including Carluccio's, Chiquito (RSTGF) and Byron Burger have gone into administration with the loss of hundreds of jobs and mass closures of dining venues.

The number of vacant leisure plots in high streets, shopping centres and retail parks has reached double figures for the first time since records began in 2013. More than 10% of leisure plots are now empty, a rise of 0.7%.

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Despite government schemes such as Eat Out to Help Out, restaurants have struggled to claw back profits since reopening on 4 July. Venues have lower capacity due to social distancing rules and there has been a significant drop in tourists since worldwide travel restrictions and quarantine rules were introduced. The 10pm curfew and lack of office workers in city centres has also devastated hospitality sales.

Source: Local Data Company
Source: Local Data Company

“With another national lockdown announced by the PM, this pain is likely going to be felt into the Christmas season and beyond,” warned Lucy Stainton, LDC head of retail and strategic partnerships.

Leisure and hospitality has been one of the hardest hit industries by the pandemic due to being one of the last sectors to be able to reopen. By the end of August almost 30% of leisure sector units remained closed.

And some businesses such as nightclubs are still unable to open.

“These figures mark only the first phase of the impact of the pandemic on the retail economy this year with 20% of the market still temporarily shut and with more months of difficult trading conditions ahead,” said Stainton.

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