Shop vacancy rates in the UK have dropped to the lowest level in three and a half years.

According to the latest Local Data Company monthly shop vacancy barometer, the number of empty shops in the top 650 UK towns decreased from 22,407 in November to 21,975 in December. This is the first time town centre shop vacancy rates dropped below 14% since July 2010.

Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: “December’s drop in the shop vacancy rate is very significant and reflects the more positive outlook that we have seen over the past few months.”

However he warned that not all UK high streets would see an immediate improvement.

“December’s drop in the shop vacancy rate is a significant step in what one hopes is the final stages in the significant rebalancing of our town centres to meet the needs of the modern consumer,” said Hopkinson.

“Change will continue and what is of interest is which towns are showing this improvement, as not all are, and in some cases terminal decline is still very evident.”