Trevor Lunn MLA said: “This is a staggering figure and it is very important that action is taken to help support town centre businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.
“It is vital that strong support is provided for small and medium-sized retail enterprises and that there is pro-active work to encourage entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland. It’s crucial that we look at radical approaches to help boost our town centres.
“The sight of vacant shops is a very sad symptom of the global economic situation and it demonstrates the impact that these tough times are having on business here. I am very troubled that the figure for Northern Ireland is so much higher than that of the UK average.
“Our town centres play such an important role in our economy and they are the key focal point of communities. It is vital that action is taken to address this deeply worrying trend.”