The number of empty shops in high streets and retail parks has slipped back to the lowest level since June 2010, according to new research.
The falling vacancy rate is good news for landlords and shoppers as the boards are disappearing off windows as businesses open new branches.
The vacancy rate for retail shops dropped 0.1% to 13.3% between July and August, which means more shops are open for business than at any time over the past four years.
Breaking the rate between different business types, leisure shop vacancies are running at 7.7% – up 0.5% from July – while the average rate for all businesses is 11.8%.
The statistics come from The Local Data Company, which visits more than 2,700 towns and cities to monitor the number of closed shops every month.
Director Matthew Hopkinson said: “The drop in vacancy rates to June 2010 levels is significant and reflects the changes taking place in Britain’s town centres in response to the challenges thrown at them since 2009.
“This improvement equates to over 400 new businesses opening in August. It also reflects an increase in demolished and properties under development which may be as a result of change in use or reconfiguration of existing retail space.
“The leisure vacancy rate, however, has shown an increase of 0.05% which is surprising in some ways but not all as it is an increasingly saturated market with significant growth coming from the multiples.”
The latest footfall survey for the last week in August, which counts the number of people visiting shops and retail parks, also shows more shoppers are hitting the pavements.
Average traffic in shopping centres is up 3.6%compared with the same time last year.
In the regions, the south west and Wales are seeing the best improvement – up 3.9% year 0n year.
“The figures are positive and continue to be better than the same period last year, when footfall was more than 4% lower in the same period,” said a spokesman for Experian, which maintains the footfall index.