The number of planning applications to build new shops dropped 9% during the past 12 months, marking the seventh consecutive year of decline.

According to a new report unveiled today, 6,700 applications were filed to build retail stores in the year to March 31, down from 7,360 the previous year.

The research from commercial law firm EMW said the number of applications had slumped 44% since the pre-recession peak of 11,900 in 2008/09.

EMW’s findings highlight the pressure being placed on traditional bricks and mortar retailers amid rapidly changing consumer habits, as shoppers continue to move towards spending online.

The report said that the administrations of BHS, Austin Reed and My Local were “in part caused by the success of online-only brands” including fashion etailers Asos and Boohoo.

Aimee Barrable, Principal at EMW, suggested retailers may also be waiting before committing to new store developments “until they have a clearer picture of the economy” following the shock Brexit vote in June.

Barrable added: “With online retailers continuing to win market share, high-street firms have less of an appetite to open new shops, instead opting to develop online services or squeeze extra profits from existing space by changing the shopping experience or repurposing stores to act more as showrooms or collection points.

“Recent high-profile closures will lead to more retail space becoming available on the market. Those retailers still looking to expand their high-street presence might look to acquire some of these recently vacated stores instead of applying for any new retail developments.”