A quarter of shops in Scotland could close within the next decade due to the rise of online retailers and increasing costs, industry research has found.
More than 4,000 premises across the country, particularly those in small towns and rural locations, could shut by 2025, a report by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said.
Technological change and the cost of running small businesses could see thousands of retail jobs lost as a result, it added.
The SRC warned that the rise of online retailers would not lead to job creation in Scotland, with most staff based at company head offices in the southeast of England.
It has called on the Scottish Government to adopt a strategy for the retail sector north of the border to prevent town centres from being “hollowed out”.
“If we care about employment and we care about places we simply have to deal with this issue,” Andrew Murphy, chairman of the SRC, told The Times.
“The dynamics of change cannot be stopped or reversed. It is only how well we collectively understand and manage it.
He added: “This is something much more profound and bigger than any one retailer. We can’t be abliavent to the fates of the Stirlings, the Falkirks, the Kirkcaldys, the Glenrothes and the Arbroaths.
“We still have time and have a chance to think ahead and to make sure the real sharp end of that decline is managed and mitigated.”
Around a quarter of a million people work in the retail sector in Scotland, most directly employed in shops.
Deloitte, the accountancy firm, has previously suggested that 60 per cent of all retail jobs are at risk from automation over the next decade.