Scotland's high streets 'hit hard' by inflation
Rising inflation and a consumer spending squeeze has hit the Scottish high street harder than anywhere else in the UK, a report has suggested.
Accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said seven business units a week have closed north of the border since the start of the year.
Restaurants and fashion stores saw the biggest falls.
More business units closed than opened in the first 23 weeks of 2011, with 161 closures compared to just 131 openings.
In comparison, the UK as a whole saw a slight growth in retailers since the start of the year, with 2,156 closures - around 20 a day - offset by 2,201 new openings.
The report also showed that Edinburgh was the hardest hit community in Scotland in the 17 months since the start of 2010, with 16 units left empty.
Paisley followed closely behind with 13 empty properties.
However, supermarkets, convenience stores and cafes appeared to buck the trend.
Analysis of fascia fronts in Scottish towns and cities indicated growth by retailers such as Co-operative Food (+8), Greggs (+5), JD Wetherspoon (+2) and Travelodge (+2).
PwC said it was clear people were changing the way they shop - particularly with an explosion in internet shopping, which now accounts for more than 10% of all UK retail sales.
Bruce Cartwright, head of business recovery services at PwC in Scotland, said high street retailers would continue to struggle over the next six months.
He continued: "Certain categories such as clothes shops, where in Scotland we have already seen 19 retail outlets close in the first five months of 2011, are likely to experience high levels of financial distress.
"The combination of rising inflation, a squeeze on consumer spending and dented consumer confidence leading to people increasingly trying to find the best deal online has made life difficult for store-dependent high street retailers who have seen a drop in sales and reduced footfall."