Published Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Empty shop premises are on the rise in Northern Ireland. (© UTV)
In Newry and Coleraine, the vacancy rate has almost doubled in the last year, from 9.7% to 20% and 11.2% to 21.2% respectively.
On the whole, Northern Ireland has a significantly higher number of empty premises in comparison to the rest of the UK.
Nineteen per cent of the region's retail units lie empty - the UK average is 11.4%.
The new research was revealed by commercial property agency Lisney on Tuesday.
Craigavon remains the town/city with the lowest vacancy rate, but it has not escaped the wrath of the recession with a substantial hike from 3.6% to 9.1%.
A major issue for retailers continues to be the high level of business rates in prime locations, the research found, and demand for shop units remains thin.
Lisney Managing Director, Declan Flynn said: ""We have a situation where the level of business rates levied on shops is completely decoupled from the commercial realities of rents and the trading performance of the retailer.
"This is unsustainable and will continue to be a significant factor in administrations and rising vacancies, unless addressed."
Dublin fares much better than Belfast in terms of office space with the take-up rate over six times higher.
Occupiers are indicating that they are choosing for Republic of Ireland over Northern Ireland due to its more competitive corporation tax level.
Mr Flynn continued: "We still haven't seen a decision on a reduction in corporation tax. Designating Northern Ireland as an Enterprise Zone is another potential option to boost the economy and help make us more competitive. In the areas of GB in which Enterprise Zones exist, they provide a streamlined planning system, tax incentives and business rates relief.
"What is clear is that if nothing is done, the issues identified in this research will become even more acute, and Northern Ireland will continue to lose major potential occupiers to the Republic of Ireland other locations."
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has described the figures as "disturbing."
They say thousands of small shops and jobs are under massive threat.
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: "This survey is yet another wake up call that urgent and joined up action needs to be taken by the Executive to reverse the decline in our town centres.
"Northern Ireland has not just the worst shop vacancy rate in the UK, but is now approaching double the UK national average."
He continued: "The survey paints a stark picture and we believe that we are approaching a trend of one in three shops being empty by this time next year. This figure is sadly highlighted by the bad news of JJB Sports entering into administration."
© UTV News