Britain's geo-political divide has continued to widen after a new set of data showed that there are twice as many empty shops in England's northern regions than in the South.
According to the Local Data Company, one in five shops in the North is now empty, compared with one in 10 in the South, and the top 10 towns with the highest vacancy rates are spread across the North West and West Midlands.
Top 10 towns with the highest vacancy rates
Burslem (West Midlands) 29.4%
Stoke-on-Trent (West Midlands) 27.7%
Hartlepool (North East) 27.3%
West Bromwich (West Midlands) 27.1%
Droylsden (North West) 26.8%
Morecambe (North West) 26.8%
Stoke-upon-Trent (West Midlands) 26.6%
Bootle (North West) 26.4%
Walsall (West Midlands) 26.2%
Stockport (North West) 25.9%
Source: The Local Data Company
"The worst-performing towns all had vacancy rates above 25%, which is still one in four shops lying empty and no sign or improvement," Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, told the BBC.
"Local Data Company research also found that 20% of the shops it tracked had been empty for more than three years, amounting to almost 10,000 outlets.
"This is the equivalent of five Manchesters lying empty."
The group monitors 3,000 town and shopping centres and retail parks across England.
It found that although there has been a "marked improvement" in occupancy overall, with average vacancy rates having fallen since 2012, there is still a disproportionately high number of empty shops in the north of England compared to the South.
The North East had a shop vacancy rate of 18.8% for the second half of 2014 while the North West had a shop vacancy rate of 18.6% for the same period.
In comparison, London was the best performing region with a vacancy region of 8.7%.