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Online shops are aiding high street's decline

Shoppers abandoning high street stores for internet rivals helped trigger a 15% rise in retail administrations in the first quarter of 2012, a report has revealed.

Accountancy firm Deloitte said that a total of 69 retailers collapsed, up from 60 in the same period of the previous year, as the squeeze on consumer spending and the growing popularity of online retailers took their toll.

Banbridge-based Houstons Fashions last week announced it was going into administration and closing its Ballymena store with the loss of 10 jobs.

The shutters also came down last week on Belfast tiling business John Frackelton and Son with the loss of 15 jobs.

Fashion chain Peacocks, video games retailer Game Group, outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure, gift seller Past Times and lingerie firm La Senza all threw in the towel in the first quarter of this year, between them accounting for nearly 10,000 job losses.

Retailers such as Game and Peacocks were bought out of administration, but have seen large chunks of their store estate closed.

But Deloitte said that many UK retailers still have too many stores as shoppers increasingly choose to look for cheaper deals online, and a recent report suggested that chains needed to reduce store numbers by 40%.

Lee Manning, a restructuring services partner at Deloitte, said: "A fast-changing retail environment will require certain businesses to reassess their store portfolios, not as a matter of choice, but in order to survive."