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More shops left empty as consumer numbers fall

More than 10% of shops in towns and cities across the UK were vacant at the end of May, latest figures have revealed.

According to new data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the national town centre vacancy rate (high streets and shopping centres) was 11.2% in May 2011.

Northern Ireland had the highest vacancy rate, where 17.1% of shops were reported empty, followed by Wales with 13.4% and northern England with 13.1%.

The study also found that the number of people visiting shops has fallen, with overall footfall between May and July down by 1% when compared with the same period last year.

Greater London (1.6%), the South West (0.4%) and Scotland (0.2%) were the only locations that saw an increase in shopper numbers.

Commenting on the study, Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: ‘This is the first time we've been able to publish footfall and vacancy figures in this level of detail and it shows stark differences in retail health between some of the UK's nations and regions.

‘Generally, the parts of the UK where the public sector is a bigger proportion of the economy are the ones where customer spending is most likely to be hit by worries about job prospects and cuts, meaning people are shopping less and more retail businesses are failing’.