The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has stepped up its call for the government to reform business rates after new official data highlighted the decline in total shop numbers across the UK.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the number of physical shops has fallen by almost 3,200 over the past four years, down 1.2% to 263,070.

In response to the publication of the figures, BRC head of insights and analytics, Rachel Lund, urged the government to cut business rate costs in the Autumn Budget later this month.

“Retail is undergoing a transformation driven by changes in shopping habits, new technology, stiff competition and an increasing regulatory burden. Many retailers are responding by refining their business models, investing in technology, improving their logistics capabilities and reducing their store portfolios,” she said.

“The continued cumulative burden of public policy costs is accelerating the pace of this change. This data reinforces the need for the government to demonstrate their commitment to “backing business” and use the upcoming budget to reduce the disproportionate cost of the outdated business rates system.”