Greater community ownership of high street properties could lead to many fewer empty shops, compared to ownership by private-sector interests such as real estate companies and overseas investors.
Shops owned by overseas investors are more than twice as likely to be vacant as shops owned by the public sector
Real estate companies own one in four of all empty shops, and overseas investors own one in five; whereas the public sector and social sector  own around one in ten each
Just 8% of units owned by the social sector are vacant, and 4.5% of those owned by the public sector – compared to 9.2% for real estate companies, 9.6% for overseas investors, 11.9% for institutions like pension funds, and 13% for investment management schemes
The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month inflation rate was 2.7% in December 2017, down from 2.8% in November 2017.
Following a steady increase from late 2015, since April 2017 the CPIH rate has levelled off, ranging between 2.6% and 2.8%.
The downward effect came mainly from air fares, along with a fall in the prices of a range of recreational goods, particularly games and toys.
The downward contributions were partially offset by an increase in tobacco prices, reflecting duty increases that came into effect following the Autumn Budget, along with an increase in petrol and diesel prices.
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) 12-month rate was 3.0% in December 2017, down from 3.1% in November 2017
The British Retail Consortium has called on Government negotiators to put consumers first in the forthcoming Brexit talks by ensuring their sights are firmly set on keeping shop prices low once the UK leaves the European Union.
Failure to strike a good Brexit deal by 2019 would have a disproportionately severe impact on retailers and their customers, because if the UK fell back on to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules the new tariff rates that the UK would apply to imports from the EU would be highest for consumer staples like food and clothing.
For example, the average duty on meat imports could be as high as 27%, while clothing and footwear would attract tariffs of 11-16% versus the current zero-rating for all EU imports.
Falling back on to WTO rules would also increase the cost of sourcing from beyond the EU. The import cost of women’s clothing from Bangladesh would be 12% higher, while Chilean wine would be 14% dearer for importers. This contrasts with duty rates that would apply to raw materials and semi-finished products, many of which would be zero-rated or attract rates of duty of below 10%.
UK retail sales increased by 3.2% on a like-for-like basis from March 2014, when they had decreased 1.7% on the preceding year.
On a total basis, sales were up 4.7%, against a 0.3% fall in March 2014. Adjusted for the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index deflation, total growth was 6.8%. The figures are flattered by the inclusion of Easter in March this year against April last year.
Total Food sales experienced their strongest growth since July 2013, helped by the Easter distortion. Growth was also strong in the home categories but subdued in the fashion ones.
Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 12.3% in March versus a year earlier, when it had grown 12.8%. The Non-Food online penetration rate was 17.6%, up from 16.9% in March 2014