More than one in seven high street stores remain empty, although the figure has stabilised after three years of dramatic increase, new figures reveal.

The latest Shop Vacancy Report, compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), found that town centre vacancy rates in Great Britain for the first half of 2011 stood at 14.5%. 

The LDC warned that although vacancy rates have stabilised in the past year, current trends in online sales and supermarket expansion will continue to impact future performance.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said a new approach is needed for high street retailing. “This shows how fragile the British high street is in parts of the country,” said Hopkinson. “The stark reality is that Great Britain has too many shops in the wrong locations and of the wrong size. The diversity of shop vacancy rates is clear evidence that a local approach is required that ties in with consumer needs and the realities of modern retailing.” 

Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said there needed to be more investment in high streets rather than in out of town retail parks.

“Towns up and down the country are crying out for new investment,” he said. “This investment is necessary not to prop up but to reshape and modernise our existing centres. However the problem is that the millions of pounds that are being invested in retail are being invested in out of town supermarkets and retail parks.

“Unless we see urgent action, our high streets will be lost to a final wave of out of town retail construction that threatens to remove retail from the heart of our communities.”