Shop vacancy rates stabilised at 14.5% in the first half of this year, but the gap between the best- and worst-performing towns widened, the Local Data Company has reported

Its review of more than 1,000 town centres shows the threefold increase in vacancy rates since 2007 has been halted, but in the worst cases one in three shops is vacant. Cementing the north-south divide, all southern regions were found to have an average vacancy of 11% or below, while elsewhere figures range from just under 13% in the east Midlands to 16% in north-west England.

At 27.7% Stockport was found to have the highest vacancy rate of town centres of more than 400 shops. Blackpool and Grimbsy followed, with 27.5% each. At 29.4%, Dudley was the medium-sized centre (200-399 shops) with the highest vacancies. Leigh Park and Margate were the worst-performing small centres, with 36.4% and 36.1% respectively.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “Britain has too many shops in the wrong locations of the wrong size. A local approach is required that ties in with consumer needs.”