Town centre shop vacancy rates fell to below 14% in December 2013, for the first time since July 2010, according to the Local Data Company (LDC).
LDC’s monthly barometer reveals a reduction in the number of empty shops from 22,407 to 21,975 in the top 650 town centres.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “December’s drop in the shop vacancy rate is very significant and reflects the more positive outlook that we have seen over the last few months. Whilst December is the month to take occupation of a shop, it is wider changes that have resulted in this drop below 14% which we have not seen for over three years.
“Administrations were down in 2013 and those that occurred did not have the store numbers that we saw back in 2009, when Woolworths closed over 800 shops. Landlords are more flexible in terms of lease lengths, which has led to the ‘pop up shop’ phenomenon.
“In an increasing number of instances, empty shops are being converted to leisure, which is growing. Those that are long term vacant, with little or no prospects, are being demolished/redeveloped.
“December’s drop in the shop vacancy rate is a significant step in what one hopes is the final stages in the significant rebalancing of our town centres to meet the needs of the modern consumer.”
He added that at the LDC Retail Summit on February 10 he will reveal “who is thriving, who is surviving and who is declining, along with analysis from 2008”.
LDC visits more than 2,700 towns and cities retail parks and shopping centres. Each premises is visited and its occupancy status recorded as occupied, vacant or demolished. Vacant units are those units, which did not posses a trading business at that location on the day visited.