The average vacancy rate for shopping centres and high streets in the UK has held steady at 14 per cent for the last six months, according to a report from research firm the Local Data Company (LDC).
This time last year the national average stood at 12.4 per cent, having increased by 10 per cent in the previous six months.
The report higlights significant regional variations, with town centres in the north of England suffering particularly badly.
The average vacancy rate on high streets and in shopping centres in the North West now stands at 19 per cent, the report says. It adds that the North West is also home to the large retail centre with the highest vacancy rate, with 30 per cent of shops in Stockport standing empty.
The North East is fairing little better, with a regional average of 18 per cent of stores boarded up.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: "The stable top line rate of 2011 hides the significant breadth in town centre vacancy rates up and down the country. The reality is that the odds are stacked against a positive take up of shops and as such the new reality of 48,000 empty shops in here to stay unless an alternative use or purpose can be found."
Umbrella body the British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said: "Today’s figures show that while some high streets are thriving, others remain locked in a spiral of decline. To turn these areas around will be difficult and will need landlords, retailers and local authorities to work closely together to adapt to changes in the way we shop.
The report is based on studies of over 700 retail centres in the UK. A summary of the report can be downloaded here.