Shop vacancy rates fell by a marginal 0.1% to 14.5% in May, says research from the Local Data Company.

The slight improvement marks the first advance in vacancy rates since February.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, said: “This is an encouraging improvement in shop vacancy rates nationally albeit a small one.

“The good news is that the shops vacancy rates has stabilised within the 14-14.6% range since August 2010 whilst prior to this we recorded a threefold increase.”

Hopkinson added that he believes the number of empty shops in the UK appears to have peaked and that now is the time to take positive action to address the 23,406 empty shops that lie empty in the UK’s 650 town centres along with a similar number outside these town centres.

The shop vacancy index is based on the shop vacancy rates of the top 650 town centres in the UK.