Empty shops in the UK high streets and shopping centres now account for 11.9% of all sites – the highest since records began.
The figures for April 2013 are up from 10.9% in January when the last survey was conducted for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in January.
Retailer insolvencies which left gaping holes in the UK’s shopping centres led to a drop in footfall of 3% in April, while high streets witnessed a sharp increase in shopper numbers – up 3.4%.
Helen Dickinson, director general at the BRC, said it is a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK.
She added: “With high streets topping the agenda for many now, there’s a real opportunity here to seize the moment and stem the tide of further closures.
“Comparatively small steps to tackle deep rooted issues such as parking, accessibility and rising business costs could make a huge difference to the health of town centres.”
Statisticians for the BRC noted that the arrival of warmer weather in April had a noticeable impact on figures with footfall improving as temperatures rose.
Dickinson added that there are some tentative signs of conditions improving but the trading environment remains volatile.
She said: “Retailers will be hoping that warmer weather and a Bank Holiday boost help May to usher in better news.”