Latest figures on empty shops across Britain show a growing north-south divide.
According to the Local Data Company, the first half of 2010 produced a slowdown in the increase in shop vacancies but threw up greater regional differences.
Town centre vacancy rates rose from just over 12% at the end of 2009 to 13% at the end of June 2010, with retail markets particularly weak in many large northern and Midland centres.
Only three southern centres – Watford, Bristol and Reading – appear in the list of the 25 large centres with the worst shop vacancy rates. Topping the list is Blackpool, with 29% vacancy.
The complete list, from the top, is: Blackpool; Bradford; Wolverhampton; Doncaster; Nottingham; Kingston-upon-Hull; Sheffield; Grimsby; Manchester; Leeds; Middlesborough; Leicester; Birmingham; Newcastle-on-Tyne; Sunderland; Derby; Watford, Preston; Wakefield; Liverpool; Northampton; Carlisle; Bristol; Reading; and Scarborough – with 14% vacancy.
The Local Data Company also looked at shop vacancy in medium-size centres. The list of the 25 centres with the worst rates, from the top, is: Altrincham – with 30% vacancy; Margate; Dewsbury; Stockton-on-Tees; Morecombe (west end); Leith; Warrington; Stockport; Brixton; Gateshead; Wandsworth; Cliftonville; Dartford; Upper Norwood; Dunstable; Sale; Whitley Bay; Letchworth; Harlow; Hinckley; Rochdale; Gainsborough; Shipley; and Walsall – with 19% vacancy.
Overall at the half year, there are many more centres getting worse than are getting better. Of the 63 large centres analysed, just 10 showed an improvement, and of the 400 medium-sized centres analysed, 73 had improved.
And with few exceptions, such improvements as are being seen in retail markets are being led by London and the wider south east.