The number of empty shops is falling but only because of short-term lettings driven by the run-up to Christmas, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
Cushwake said 10.3% of shops are now available across the UK, a decline of 2.3% in the three months to 1 November.
In the North, 10% of shops were vacant, an improvement from 12% in August. The region ranged greatly from 5.5% void rates in Liverpool to 14% in Newcastle. Availability in Leeds increased to 13.7% from 11.8% three months ago. Manchester saw voids fall from 15.5% in August to 9.3% in November.
Matt Illingworth, head of retail North West, Cushman & Wakefield: "The market across the North remains fragile but take up during the last three months is typical of this time of year.
"Shorter term leases with flexibility are being agreed with some exceptions on prime high street and shopping centre locations. Rental levels are, however, still behind their peak levels. Retail void levels may increase again in early 2010 depending on short term agreements ending or companies unsuccessfully trading through December but we will have to wait for the true picture on the street."
Although Central London has one of the lowest levels of availability at 8.3%, outer London has the highest at 16.6% with towns such as Watford and Bromley having the highest number of available units. Elsewhere in the UK, East England has the lowest overall vacancy rate at 6.5% (a decrease of 2.4% in three months). After outer London, South West & Wales and the Midlands have the highest levels of availability at 12.5% and 10.4% respectively. Scotland has seen the greatest change in the three months with 5.7% less shops available in November than in August.