One in 10 shops in UK high streets and shopping centres were empty in October as retailers battle against stagnating sales and rising costs, a survey has found.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the town centre vacancy rate of 11.3% was the worst figure since its nationwide survey began in July 2011.
A fifth of store units are currently empty in Northern Ireland, while the rate for Wales is 15.1% and for the North & Yorkshire region the rate is 14.6%. Greater London had 7.6% of its units lying empty.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said the new figures would set "alarm bells ringing" as it confirmed the financial challenges for both customers and retailers were far from over.
Big brands including JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and Peacocks have either disappeared or scaled back their presence in town centres after going into administration.