Six towns in England have the highest proportion of vacant shops in the UK, it was revealed today.

Dewsbury, Dudley, Hartlepool, Margate, Stockport and West Bromwich were named as the worst performers by retail analyst The Local Data Company and have vacancy rates of between a quarter and third of all stores. The company visited all towns in England, Scotland and Wales between January-June 2011 and the national shop vacancy rate is understood to be in the region of 14.3%, a slight fall from 14.5% in December last year.

The news of the nation’s worst high street performers comes after it was revealed that retail sales had suffered in August. A study by accountancy firm BDO suggested sales had slumped in the month by around 2%.

Matthew Hopkinson, business development director at The Local Data Company, said: “At a national level we are seeing stability, but at a local town centre level we are seeing massive extremes. I think the reality that comes out of this is that we are seeing permanent change. The centres showing up to one in three shops vacant will never go back to what they used to be.”

Retail guru Mary Portas has been commissioned by the government to investigate problems on the high street and is to report back with her findings soon.

What are your views on the high street? Is enough being done to revitalise our towns? Get in touch at or tweet us @BritishBaker.

>> What we can all learn from Mary Portas