Report authors say the worst may now be over for high streets
Shopkeepers in Wolverhampton and Margate have emerged as those worst hit by the recession, a report claims.
Wolverhampton topped the UK shop vacancy rate for larger retail centres, with almost 24% of stores standing idle, say the Local Data Company (LDC).
And Kent seaside town Margate was the hardest hit medium-sized centre, with more than 27% of its shops empty.
The report, unveiled by the British Property Federation, showed vacancies increased in 2009 but at a slower rate.
Overall, the Midlands and North East were the regions worst hit.
Of the larger centres, following behind Wolverhampton were Bradford (22.5%), Sheffield (21%) and Middlesbrough (20.1%).
And in the medium category Letchworth in Hertfordshire (24.5%), Gateshead in Tyne and Wear (23%) and Hinckley in Leicestershire (22.9%) follow Margate.
But the authors of the LDC report said there was optimism the worst was behind the high street.
The national shop vacancy figure at the end of December stood at 12.4% - up from 10% in June 2009.
Chief executive of the British Property Federation, Liz Peace, said: "Brits now do a lot more shopping on the web, so we'll see a fundamental reshaping of our high streets.
"The next government will need to balance cuts in capital spending with ideas for reinvigorating regions that have suffered from years of underinvestment."
The LDC End-Year Report 2009 covers the results of over 149,000 UK shop premises surveyed in over 700 town centres.