North West still has the most empty shops

THE North West still has the most empty shop and leisure units in the country.

According to figures from the Local Data Company 17.3% of units in the region were empty, up from 17.1% in 2012 and well ahead of the national average of 12.2% (2012: 12.6).

The worst performing locations were the West End of Morecambe, Bolton, Bootle, Church Street in Runcorn, Altrincham and Eccles.

But the Local Data Company said Morecambe had reduced its shop vacancy rate from 30% in 2010 to 17.1%, the biggest improvement of any location.

The North still has significantly higher vacancy rates than the south. The North East stands at 16.8% while Yorkshire and the Humber had a vacancy rate of 14.9%. London was the best performing region with 8.1%, down from 8.5%.

The South East rate was 11.7% and Canterbury was the best performing large centre with just 5.5% of all units empty. Down the road in Margate it was a different story with 23.1% of shop and leisure units empty.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company said: “2013 was a pivotal year for our town centres. It showed stabilisation of vacancy rates at a national level and saw the lowest vacancy rate recorded since mid 2010. Along with other key indicators such as house prices, GDP and unemployment you would not be wrong to identify 2013 as the year that the UK’s economic recovery began.

“Nationally this may be the case but what is clear from LDC’s latest report on vacancy rates, ‘divide and rule’, is that there is a significant and growing divide between the north of the country and the south. In addition, we are seeing greater concentration of the best retail and leisure destinations in fewer centres, be they large out of town shopping parks or the increasing number of ‘mega malls’ of which Trinity Leeds was the latest example to open in 2013.”