The number of empty shops in the UK has continued to rise as retailers struggle with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
One in seven shops is now empty across the UK and the number is continuing to rise despite the re-opening of the economy.
The COVID pandemic has accelerated a shift towards online shopping and shopping centres have been hardest hit, with nearly one in five units empty, the BRC said. The vacancy rate in retail parks is also rising quickly as they lose stores.
The northeast of England had the highest vacancy rate, followed by Wales and the northwest.
Fashion retailers have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the closure of high street brands such as Debenhams and Topshop contributing to vacancies.
The number of empty shops could continue to rise following the ending of the business rates holiday, the BRC added.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: 'It comes as no surprise that the number of shuttered stores in the UK continues to rise after retailers have been in and out of lockdown for over a year.'