The level of empty shops in 15 key locations across the UK has registered its largest quarterly fall since 2006. The Colliers International’s latest National Retail Barometer for summer 2014 (based on data collected between October 2013 and April 2014), shows that the average void rate by number of units is now 13%. 12 out of the 15 locations that the research tracks experienced a fall in the vacancy rate.

In comparison to the situation six months ago, the sample centres have collectively registered a decrease in vacant space of more than 300,000 sq ft of. Total vacancy across the 15 locations now stands at 1.8m sq ft.

The absorption of space has not been confined to London and the South East where the retail market has proved generally more resilient. Locations such as Liverpool, Cardiff, Northampton and Worcester also saw falls in the vacancy rate. Liverpool saw one of the strongest uplifts in demand as 20 units totalling more than 100,000 sq ft were let between October 2013 and April 2014.

However, despite falling void rates, there has been little movement in the average length of time that shops sit empty. On average, 43% currently remain vacant for more than a year.

Commenting on the research findings, Mark Phillipson, the Head of Retail at Colliers International, said: “The trend is encouraging and reflects the growing demand for space – particularly at the prime end of the market.

“However, it is highly unlikely that there will be a return to the general occupancy level that prevailed pre-recession.

The growth of online shopping will continue to influence the demand for physical stores and retailers are now more focused on building smaller networks of outlets that primarily target the strongest High Streets, shopping centres and out-of-town parks.

“For retail landlords, the challenge is to provide a key point of difference which will attract shoppers. In this respect, an attractive leisure element and free or cheap parking is essential.

“All shopping environments need to continue to develop initiatives which will drive footfall and inevitably lead to greater retailer demand for shops.”