More than one in 10 shops on Britain's high streets are empty, according to new research.
Figures compiled by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) state that the UK now has a shop vacancy rate of 11.3 per cent, which is the highest since records began in July 2011.
The figure has been slowly rising throughout 2012, due in part to financial problems at major high street chains such as JJB Sports, Clinton Cards and Game. Electronic retailer Comet is also preparing to close down dozens of shops across the country.
Guardian.co.uk reports that the number of pop-up shops opening over the Christmas period should see these figures get smaller in the next few months. Many of these temporary stores are likely to be making last-minute preparations - such as staffing and arranging for the secure collection of cash - before the festive period gets in full swing.
Nevertheless, BRC director general Stephen Robertson believes that it's time for the government to step in to prevent Britain's high streets from becoming even more barren.
Speaking to bbc.co.uk, he said: "This new high in empty shop numbers really sets alarm bells ringing. It confirms the financial challenges for both customers and retailers are far from over. Next year's threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse.
"If the government wants to breathe life back into our town centres and ensure the retail industry can play its full role in job creation, it needs to freeze rates in 2013."