Overall shop vacancy rates in Great Britain reduced slightly in 2012 but the North is still struggling, according to a new report.

In the Local Data Company’s (LDC) latest shop vacancy report, More Clicks, Less Bricks, it was revealed that the average shop vacancy rate in 2012 stood at 14.2%, down from the previous year’s figure of 14.3%.

Despite this overall reduction, many areas around the United Kingdom saw an increase in vacancy rates. The North West saw the highest vacancy rate with 20.2%, up from 19.7% in 2011, while the North East had a 18.7% rate, increasing from the previous year’s figure of 18.1%.

The West Midlands suffered the largest increase in the amount of empty shops, increasing from 17.7% to 18.5%. Wales was reported to be the “worst performing country” in terms of shop vacancy with an 18% rate, compared to Scotland (15.5%) and England (13.9%).

London, East Midlands and Yorkshire & The Humber all saw decreases in the vacancy rates over the period, accounting for the overall average decrease.

In the wake of this report, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged the government to introduce discretionary rate relief to help struggling businesses in these areas.

“Northern towns would have benefited most from the 2015 rates revaluation but will have to wait a further two years for the system to be rebalanced,” he said. “The business rates systems needs restructuring to ensure that reliefs can be targeted to support business struggling to meet their property costs and support new businesses develop and invest.”