There are twice as many empty shops in the North of England than in the South, according to research by the Local Data Company.
One in five shops in northern towns and cities is vacant, compared with one in 10 in the South.
However, average vacancy rates have been falling since 2012. The rate was 13.3% in the second half of 2014, down 0.8% year on year. The worst-performing region was the Northeast, with an average rate of 18.8%.
London was the best-performing region at 8.7%.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said the worst-performing towns all had vacancy rates above 25%.
Hopkinson told the BBC that 20% of the shops the LDC tracks - amounting to almost 10,000 units - have been empty for more than three years.