Council bosses in St Helens have hit back at a report suggesting the town centre is one of the worst performing in the North West.
A dossier complied by real estate advisors Colliers International criticised the borough for the amount of empty shops and stagnant rent growth.
But town hall chiefs said they have little control over rent levels but were continuing to work to lure more shoppers to the town centre.
A council spokesman said: “The council owns less than one per cent of the retail units in the town centre and therefore has minimal influence over the rent levels set.
“The main priority for the council is to ensure that there is a quality mix of retailers and leisure operators supporting the vitality and viability of the town centre and minimising the number of vacant units.
“The council is undertaking work to ensure we have a vibrant town centre with an appropriate mix of uses.”
Colliers came up with the findings after studying retail rent rises over the last 12 months.
Those with higher increases were judged to be performing better than those with lower rises.
The study cites oversupply of local shops and the impact of business rates as a major factor causing rents to stay low.
Cumbrian market towns - where rents rose by 17 per cent - are among the best performing retail centres in the region, according to the latest Midsummer Retail Report by real estate advisors Colliers International. Rent rates in St Helens fell, on average, by seven per cent.