The number of empty shops in the UK’s 685 shopping centres has fallen 0.4% in the year to April 1, 2015.
According to data from the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) and Local Data Company (LDC), vacancy rates in the 100 largest shopping centres fell 0.3% in the period, despite the 30 biggest schemes having 0.8% more vacant units than a year ago.
The results indicate that smaller centres performed better than larger complexes when it came to filling empty units during the 12-month period.
As a whole, the South East experienced the largest drop in empty stores, with a 1.7% fall, followed by the North West with 1.3% fewer vacant shops.
Elsewhere, the West Midlands saw a 1.1% reduction and the East of England 0.7%. The East Midlands improved the least, with 0.2% fewer vacancies year on year.
The number of shops in centres trading as multiples increased 1.3% in the last year, linked to a 1.3% drop in the number of independents.
The shift is the result of new international retailers - considered independent in the UK at the same time last year - having expanded to become a multiple according to the Local Data Company’s definition of having five or more stores.
Director of policy and public affairs at the BCSC, Ed Cooke, said the data tells a positive story for shopping centres in England and Wales.
“The success of new international retailers who have chosen shopping centres as locations for their first UK stores and grown to open more stores in the last 12 months is evidence of how shopping centres provide ideal hubs for international retailers looking to break into the UK market.
“The benefits of a shopping centre location to an international retailer are considerable. From day one the centre’s existing footfall, professional management and the established consumer brand of the centre itself all serve as advantages to a retailer starting out in the UK market.”