UK divide in shop vacancy rates

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The Independent Online

The number of shops closing across the UK is slowing but the North is faring significantly worse than the South, with Bristol having half the number of empty shops as Blackpool - the worst affected area in the UK.

Bristol has just half the vacancy rate as Blackpool, where 30 per cent of shops are currently unoccupied, the study found.

Overall, town centre vacancy rates rose from just over 12 per cent at the end of 2009 to 13 per cent at the end of June, according to the Local Data Company (LDC).

However, Bath was among a small contingent of so-called "improvers" in the past 12 months where vacancy rates have steadily declined.

Of the 63 large centres studied across the UK, 10 showed an improvement over the past six months and eight of those showed a consistent improvement over the year.

Those "improvers" included Bath, Guildford, central London, Cardiff and Liverpool.

The study authors wrote: "This data shows vacancy increasing in a majority of centres and, more worryingly, particularly in those centres where the budget and job cuts proposed for the public sector will begin to bite.

"Combined with the increase in VAT in January, this will likely be a double blow for the big retail centres in the North and Midlands particularly."

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "It is encouraging to see high streets recovering in the South, but that glimmer of positive news does not hide the fact that retail markets elsewhere are struggling, and that consumer confidence is still fragile."