Environmental Data Compendium
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Spatial developments

Vacancy of retail space, 2004-2015

There is an oversupply of retail shops in the Netherlands. On average, more than 9% of total shop floor area is unoccupied in 2015. The percentage has been on the rise since 2008, but there are considerable regional differences. Empty shops are predominantly found in areas on the fringes of the country, e.g. in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen where the population is shrinking.

Check the vacancy rates in your municipality

There are fairly large differences between the vacancy rates within the Netherlands. Check and select the vacancy rates in your municipality with this infographic.

Eight percent of shop premises empty

Until 2010, the vacancy rate was less than 6 percent. Subsequently, the rate began to rise more rapidly to reach 9.2 percent of total retail floor space in 2015.

Regional variation

Regional differences with respect to vacant retail space are considerable. Outside the Randstad area, many regions show high vacancy rates. Friesland, large parts of the province of Groningen, the south-west part of Overijssel, central Flevoland and the south of Limburg have vacancy rates in excess of 10%. These regions largely correspond to regions where the population is shrinking, which is the main reason for closedowns in the retail sector. If the various types of shopping areas are taken into account, the vacancy rate is particularly high in shopping areas in the centres of small and medium-sized towns.

Gradual increase shops between 2004 and 2015

The stock of retail space has risen steadily between 2004 and 2015 and the shop floor area has increased by more than 4 million square metres (m²). The shop floor area was extended over a long period of time. Considerable less floorspace was withdrawn in this period. In recent years, this situation has changed. Additions include new constructions as well as extensions of existing locations. If only the number of shop premises is taken into account (irrespective of size), the current situation is that more shop premises are withdrawn from than added to the stock.

Expansion of shop floor area

During a long period of time, one of the driving forces behind the growing demand for shop premises - and the relatively low vacancy level - has been the continuous expansion process in the retail trade sector. The amount of m² per shop has grown substantially in recent decades from less than 50 m² in 1968 to 284 m² in 2015, i.e. a more than fivefold increase in nearly half a century.
This is predominantly due to the formation of shop chains in the retail sector. The need for upscaling is also reflected in vacancy rates. On average, empty retail premises are smaller (252 m²) than premises currently in use. As yet, it is not entirely clear what impact online sales and other developments in the retail sector will have on the size of shops and the demand for shop floor space.


Relevant information

Technical information

Name data

Stock and vacant retail floorspace

Institute responsible


Calculation method

For the calculation of the share of vacant shop floorspace, an investigation was conducted on shop level to establish whether or not the premises were used for retail activities prior to or after they became vacant. The floor space is only registered if the premises were used for retail activities (and vacancy).

Basic table

Locatus file retail outlets

Geographical distribution

Outlet -> municipality

Background literature

Frank van Dongen, Edwin Buitelaar and Marnix Breedijk (2013), Leegstand detailhandel herbezien, Real Estate Research Quarterly June 2013

Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2016). Vacancy of retail space, 2004-2015 (indicator 2151, version 03 , 19 January 2016 ). www.environmentaldata.nl. Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.

The Environmental Data Compendium is a partnership of CBS, PBL, RIVM and WUR.