The number of applications to develop new retail stores has fallen 9% in the past year to 6,700, according to new research.

In 2015/16, applications fell for the seventh consecutive year and are down by nearly half (44%) the number of the pre-recession peak of 11,900 in 2008/09, the research by commercial law firm EMW reveals.

The fall in applications coincides with high street retailers’ loss of market share to e-commerce companies, EMW said. Brexit may also add pressure to the sector, it added.

It said recent failure of high street retailers including BHS and My Local were in part caused by the continued success of online-only brands.

Aimee Barrable, principal at EMW, said: “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 re-purposing 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.

“Also, it may be that many retailers wait before committing to any new shop developments until they have a clearer picture of the economy in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.”