Town centre vacancy rates in Great Britain rose from nearly 10% in the middle of 2009 to more than 12% at the end of December.

A new report from The Local Data Company said the worst-performing large town centres were in the Midlands and the north, with Wolverhampton topping the table at a 23.9% vacancy rate. Bradford and Sheffield were in second and third places respectively.Margate, with a 27% vacancy rate, was the worst-off medium-sized town centre, followed by Letchworth and Gateshead.

Significantly, for those looking for signs of a recovery, the rate of increase in vacant shops has slowed from 100% in the first six months of 2009 to 24% in the second half of 2009.

Business development director Matthew Hopkinson said he was not surprised by the results. "When you consider the out-of-town developments and lack of lending by the banks, you can see why there is a problem. And while people say they love little shops, it doesn’t help if they don’t shop in them."

The report also notes that the value of retail sales in December 2009 was 3.6% higher than in the same month a year earlier. This increase was dominated by a 4.9% rise in food sales.

The survey covers more than 149,000 shop premises, surveyed in over 700 town centres.