MORE retailers will go bust leaving gaping holes on the country’s shopping streets unless landlords and councils ease the burden on stores groups an expert has warned.

Eileen Blackburn, head of restructuring at French Duncan accountants, said the retail sector is grappling with serious infrastructure issues that will results in widespread store closures in Scotland if action is not taken.

“The sector is not so much at breaking point as having gone beyond that and is simply collapsing,” said Ms Blackburn. “Without immediate action on rents and business rates many retailers will enter insolvency.”

Ms Blackburn gave her judgement after Philip Green this week secured rent cuts from landlords that helped to keep his Arcadia group in business, under a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Arcadia, which owns chains such as Burton and Topshop, will close 23 stores under the CVA with another 25 to go as part of a wider restructuring, putting 1,000 jobs at risk.

Ms Blackburn said there could be many more CVAs for store operators, which face growing competition from online players. Landlords should accept that rental rates agreed when conditions were much brighter may no longer be appropriate.

“It is surely better for landlords to accept 50 per cent of something than zero per cent if the stores go out of business,” said Ms Blackburn.

She said some councils appeared to want to levy business rates on retail properties at boom time levels when the market simply isn’t there to sustain them.

Local authorities must also support an overhaul of the way in which High Streets operate to broaden the offering from straightforward retail to include other services.

“There needs to be imagination, and a sympathetic and creative approach to regenerating the centrepieces of our towns and cities,” observed Ms Blackburn.

She noted that the number of retail insolvencies hit a record high in Scotland in the first quarter. Some 28 retailers entered insolvency in the first three months of 2019, representing over 40% of the entire figure for 2018.