The number of stores lying vacant on high streets rose by 0.4% to 12.6% in the three months to August, but the rate of increase has slowed.

The rise was an reduction on the 0.8% one in the three months to May, property agency Cushman & Wakefield’s Retail Availability report showed.

In the most recent period, administrations accounted for 3.3% of vacant premises – a proportion unchanged on the previous period.

The worst affected areas were the Southwest and Wales, where vacancies increased 4.2%, meaning that 17.7% of high street shops in those areas were vacant.

The Southeast and Central London had the lowest levels of availability, at 7.6% and 8.9% respectively. 

However, High Street Kensington has suffered because of last October’s opening of Westfield London – 16% of units on the street were available.

Cushman & Wakefield head of retail services John Strachan said the figures indicate that the UK “may be at or approaching a peak in vacancies”.

He said: “The retail market remains very challenging but we are seeing rising sales and confidence that the country will return to economic growth before the end of the year.”