The number of stores left vacant in high streets has reached its highest level in the past four years, figures show.
Figures from a survey by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard show more than one in 10 stores were left empty in July – the highest since January 2015.
The report said the number of shoppers also fell by 1.9% last month, marking the worst decline for July since 2012.
It comes as a wave of restructuring and bankruptcies have hit retailers as they struggle to compete with online rivals with towns such as Doncaster in South Yorkshire seeing one in five shops sitting empty.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said the rising vacancy rate “highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by bricks and mortar destinations”.
The figures reveal that while footfall on the high street and at shopping centres declined by 2.7% and 3.1% respectively last month, retail parks fared better with a 1.2% increase.
Ms Wehrle noted that retailers will need to manage customer expectations to continue trading in this environment.
She said: “Consumer demand is ever more polarised between convenience and experience, and the stronger performance of out-of-town destinations reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap.
“They not only offer consumers accessible shopping environments with free parking and easy click and collect opportunities for online purchases, but many also combine this with an enhanced experience that includes coffee shops and casual dining restaurants, and some also have leisure facilities.”
Meanwhile the British Retail Consortium said retailers face pressure from business rates and taxes and has called on the government to intervene.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Currently, retail accounts for 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of all business costs and 25% of all business taxes.
“The rising vacancy figures show this is simply not sustainable. We need an immediate freeze in rates, as well as fixing the transitional relief, which leads to corner shops in Redcar subsidising banks in central London.”
Last month was also the worst July on record for year-on-year growth in total retail sales.