By Daniel Hunter

The number of vacant shops in the UK hit a new high in February, as the percentage rose to 14.6%.

Data released by the Local Data Company showed that vacancy rates had stabilised at the tail end of 2011, but the numbers have risen during the start of this year.

It is further evidence of a difficult start to the year for retailers, who saw retail figures slide back by 0.8%.

"It is a timely reminder to the government, who are due to respond to the Portas Review this month, of the significant challenges facing town and city centres up and down the country," said LDC director Matthew Hopkinson.

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