The rate of UK shop vacancies in town centres fell by 0.1% to 14.2% in 2012, according to the latest data.

In the latest Shop Vacancy Report, compiled and published by the Local Data Company (LDC), it revealed that the highest vacancy rate was seen at shopping centres, with an average rate of 15.6%, while the rate of empty outlets at retail parks remained lower than that of the UK’s high streets at 8.8%.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of the LDC, said: ­­ “The picture is one of increasing polarisation of performance between town centres, shopping centres and retail parks in every part of the country.

“Online is driving growth for a majority of retailers, so 2013 is all about the supporting role that shops will have as ‘customer experience’ centres and showrooms as much as transactions through tills.

Locations across the UK which saw high rates of empty shops on their high streets included Morecambe in Lancashire, which had more than a third of its outlets unoccupied last year – a total of 48 sites out of 140 which had been disused.

Other areas suffering from empty shops included Eccles in Greater Manchester which had 33% of its shops vacant, in addition to Dudley in the West Midlands which reported a 32% vacancy rate in 2012.

The only regions of the UK not to report a rise in its shop vacancy rates were the East Midlands, Yorkshire & The Humber and London.

Hopkinson added: “The big unknown is how technology will continue to channel and mould consumer spending habits and to what effect, as bricks as clicks take the lead role? The pressure between online and the rising costs of running a shop on the high street, due to rents, rates and parking charges, is likely to become an increasingly hot topic.”