Empty Retail Space Filled By Leisure Companies
Cafes, restaurants and betting shops have sprung up to fill some of the retail space left vacant by the effects of recession and the consumer spending squeeze.
The report by the Local Data Company (LDC) reveals an improving picture for high streets amid retail park decline.
The overall store vacancy rate fell to 14.1% from 14.2% - measured in February.
High street vacancies in large centres fell to 13.5% from 16.2% last year, while they were down to 11.9% in medium centres (from 15%) and 9.2% in small centres (from 10.6%).
But these improvements, the LDC said, were offset by an increase of empty units in retail parks - hit by high-profile failures such as Comet - from 8.1% to 9.6%.
Shopping centres remained the most-plagued by unused sites, improving only slightly from 16.2% to 16.1%.
The report also highlighted a regional divide, illustrated the LDC said, by the fact that 21 of the 25 worst areas were in the North, Midlands or Wales.
In the North West, one in five shops (20.1%) was vacant, twice the rate in London (9.4%), it found.
West End in Morecambe, Lancashire, had the highest rate of vacancies at 37.1%, while Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, had the lowest with just 1% of shops empty.
Margate in Kent, chosen as a pilot for retail guru Mary Portas's proposals to boost the high street, had the third highest rate, at 30.8%.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said of the report: "Restaurants, bars, cafes and even betting shops have come to the rescue as the growth of leisure takes off in our town centres.
"This report clearly shows that whilst the rise of empty shops has stalled it still remains stubbornly high for many towns up and down the country."