The EU referendum has triggered a decline in the number of shops opening their doors in the UK, according to a new report.
Closures exceeded openings by 1,997 in the six months to the end of June, the Loca Data Company revealed.
In the second half of 2015 openings had been more numerous than closures by 335 in the UK.
The dramatic turnaround was the result of openings falling by 15%, while closures dropped just 5%, as 22,801 shops closed in the first half, weighed against the 20,804 that opened.
Demolitions and re-uses of retail premises exceeded the supply of new buildings, so the percentage of empty units, the vacancy rate, actually fell until right at the end of the half – at which point it just began to tick upwards.
LDC sales and marketing director Matthew Hopkinson commented: “Growth slackened significantly in the half year leading up to the referendum at the end of June, taking the steam out of the gentle improvement in vacancy that has improved by 2.3% since 2011.”
The LDC report, which also compares recent results to those over the last five years, showed that England has the lowest national vacancy rate at 11.3%, followed by Scotland at 12.1% and Wales at 15.1%.
Retail parks have gained more units than any other type of location, while shopping centres have made the best improvement in vacancy rates – in coming down from the highest peak of any type of location.
High street health index scores show retail parks and small towns in the pink in comparison to larger towns and shopping centres, the report said.
Burslem in Stoke on Trent has the highest vacancy rate at 33.3%, while Beaconsfield is the top performing location by occupation, with no vacant units.
London is the only region to have lost in numbers of independent shops and the only one to gain in numbers of chain stores over the past half-decade.