A record 13.7% of all shops were empty in the final quarter of 2020, according to new data.
BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said it was clear the industry needed further support to recover including an extension to business rates relief.
Retail parks saw no change at 10% but shopping centres saw a surge from 16.3% to 17.1% in its vacancy rate. High street vacancies increased to 13.7% from 13.3% in the previous three months.
She said: “With the country in and out of lockdown, the forced closures of thousands of shops, and consumers reluctant to visit town and city centres, it is unsurprising that the number of shuttered stores continues to rise.
“Over the past two years, one in every 50 outlets has permanently closed and this number will only go up.
“The big increase in vacancy rates during the crucial golden retail quarter, when demand is usually high, serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact.”