The toxic mix of high costs and low consumer spending helped push up retail insolvencies by nine per cent in the second quarter, according to new research.
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Local Data Company (LDC) found that currently an average of 20 shops are closing every day on the UK’s high streets.
Along with store reduction programmes, carried out by the likes of HMV and Thorntons, this decline in outlets has been caused by 375 retailers falling into insolvency during the second three months of 2011.
With big name traders such as TJ Hughes, Habitat and Jane Norman all falling into administration in over recent weeks, industry body the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called on the government to take action to stop the rot in the country’s town centres.
Commenting on the research, BRC Director General Stephen Robertson said: “The government’s review of the high street – headed up by television presenter Mary Portas – comes at a crucial time and must result in urgent action.
“Practical steps are needed to protect and promote our high streets so they remain attractive locations where businesses of all kinds can thrive. This cannot be left to chance.”
Robertson says that the report should focus on deterring crime and tackling the oft cited problems of high business rates, affordable parking and decent public transport.
Empty shops are not increasing everywhere in the UK however, and the 48 per cent rise in shop numbers in the south-west of England during the quarter helped to push the overall national number up during the period.
There are large pockets of struggling areas though, and the rises in vacancies in Scotland the midlands and south-east regions of England, 30, 17 & 19 per cent respectively, show that trading remains constrained.
Robertson added: “It’s encouraging that not all regions are seeing a fall in retail premises; some have seen a net gain thanks to new stores opening.
“The priority must be protecting that growth and helping it spread to all parts of the country, boosting town centres and creating jobs.”
Cafés, supermarkets and convenience stores have been the most likely to fill gaps on the high street left by departing retailers, the report also found.