The shop vacancy rate in the UK stands at 15.9%, according to figures released by local councils to restructuring specialist Duff & Phelps.

Following a Freedom of Information request to local councils, Duff & Phelps has calculated the total number of retail units that stand empty is 50,578, based on the mean average of the councils that responded.

This equates to an average of 121 retail units per council, and is a vacancy rate of 15.9% based on ONS figures that there were 319,000 retail businesses in 2018.

Phil Duffy, managing director at Duff & Phelps, argues the impact on local councils of empty shops on the high street should not be underestimated.

He believes that because the vast majority of local authorities are retail landlords, high numbers of voids means significant lost rental and business rates income for councils that are already struggling to balance the books.

Duffy said: “The impact on local government cannot be underestimated. FOI also identified that 91% of UK local authorities are retail landlords in their own right. Empty units mean lost rental and business rates income, all at a time when many local authorities are reporting increased financial pressures.

“The old financial model of the traditional bricks-and-mortar retailer – based on a high street or shopping centre built around them in the post-war era – was centred on regular increases in sales and 25-year leases with upward rent reviews only.

“As a result, it has meant high rents and occupancy costs. This has blown apart as a result of both the discounters and the dramatic uptick in online sales. The remaining question is whether this picture continues throughout 2019 and, if so, at what speed?”

In the first 100 days of 2018, some 18 major retailers collapsed, impacting more jobs than in the entire year prior, according to Duff & Phelps.