Almost one in five shops in England’s northern towns and cities are empty compared with just one in 10 in the south, a new reports reveals.
And Morecambe is ranked the sixth worst town in the country for empty shops.
The regional divide has been highlighted by The Local Data Company as it revealed that the rate of shop vacancies across the country stood at 13.3 per cent at the end of last year, down from a February 2012 peak of 14.6 per cent.
The North West had led the country in terms of shop vacancies since 2008 but has now been edged out by the North East.
The North East has a shop vacancy rate of 18.8 per cent in the second half of 2014, a fall of 0.3 per cent on a year ago.
The best region is London, with a vacancy rate of 8.7 per cent after a fall of 0.4 per cent.
The report also found that 20 per cent of all shops it tracked had been vacant for more than three years, which amounts to almost 10,000 outlets.
Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: “This is the equivalent of five Manchesters lying empty.”
The top 10 worst towns or cities is by survey area: Burslem (West Midlands); Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent (West Midlands) ; Hartlepool (North East) ; West Bromwich (West Midlands) ; Droylsden (North West); Morecambe (North West); Stoke (West Midlands); Bootle (North West); Walsall (West Midlands); Stockport (North West).