Fears over the high street were fuelled today after it emerged that demand for space was falling even before the collapse of three major players.
A survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' (RICS) revealed a 13% fall in the net balance of businesses looking at retail premises to rent in the final three months of the year, against an 18% fall the previous quarter.
London's retail landlords saw the heftiest drop in demand since mid-2009, while Wales and the Midlands were the only regions where demand did not fall.
RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said the end of 2012 was "yet another incredibly tough period for the high street" and had been brought to a head by the recent news of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, which went into administration this month.
He said: "Sadly, this downbeat picture doesn't look like changing any time soon with demand for retail space continuing to drop and more empty premises set to blight the country's town centres."
The survey also found a balance of 22% more surveyors expected rent to continue to fall. It was better for both offices and industrial unit landlords, where demand increased for the first time in 18 months, although rents will be subdued with the amount of available space also rising.