A drop in the number of empty shops in December 2013 is being hailed as "very significant".
The Local Data Company's (LDC) monthly barometer of shop vacancies shows that the rate dropped to 13.9% in December, down from 14.1% the month before. The number of empty shops in the top 650 town centres fell to 21,975 from 22,407.
It means that town centre shop vacancy rates in Great Britain are now below 14% for the first time since July 2010.
Said LDC director Matthew Hopkinson: "December's drop in the shop vacancy rate is very significant and reflects the more positive outlook that we have seen over the last few months. Whilst December is the
month to take occupation of a shop, it is wider changes that have resulted in this drop below 14%, which we haven't seen for over three years.
"Adminstrations were down in 2013 and those that occurred did not have the store numbers that we saw back in 2009, when Woolworths closed over 800 shops. Landlords are more flexible in terms of lease lengths, which has led to the pop-up-shop' phenomenon.
"Empty shops in an increasing number of instances (78 units in December) are being converted to leisure, which is growing. Those that are long-term vacant with little or no prospects are being demolished/redeveloped (95 units in December).
"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.
"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."