One in seven UK shops were unoccupied last year as consumers turned to the internet and out-of-town retail parks.
The Local Data Company said town centres were "locked in a spiral of decline" and predicted vacancies would rise as shoppers search for cheaper prices and unemployment grows.
With e-commerce doubling in the past decade, the report stated that physical retail faces fundamental “structural issues”, asserting that there will soon be “too many shops on the High Street”.
Stockport town centre was the worst-off, with more than a third of its shops empty. Nottingham, Grimsby, Stockton-on-Tees, Wolverhampton, Blackburn, Walsall and Blackpool all had more than a quarter vacant.
One in five shopping malls were also experiencing financial difficulties.
The best performers, with vacancy rates around or below ten per cent, were typically in the south and the west. These included Exeter, Kingston, Camden, Cambridge, Taunton, Salsibury and St Albans – which was the outstanding town with only 8.2 per cent of its shops empty. In the north, York and Harrogate had less than one in ten unoccupied.
Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said: "It is clear that while some high streets are thriving, others face stiff competition from internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres. That's why we already have responded rapidly to recommendations in Mary Portas's review on the future of high streets and will publish our full response in the spring."