18 town centre shops closing daily
Town centre shops closed at a rate of 18 a day during the first half of the year in a sign that high street retailers continued to suffer despite signs of improvement in the wider economy.
The rate fell from more than 20 during the same period last year, but it was charity stores, betting shops and cheque cashing outlets that picked up the slack. Video and photography outlets and women's fashion retailers suffered the worst drops in numbers.
A study of 500 UK town centres from accountants PwC compiled by the Local Data Company showed 3,366 outlets closed in the six-month period, compared with 3,157 openings, a net reduction of 209 shops.
This was an improvement on the net reduction of 953 over the first half of last year - caused by more shop openings on the high street and fewer closures, the report said.
It also showed the changing profile of town centres, with hundreds of closures in certain types of retail goods including shoes and clothes but an increasing number of openings in the "leisure" sector, including food, beverage and entertainment.
Coffee shops and hearing aid outlets were among those increasing, the research showed, as were convenience stores, as large supermarket groups move into the sector to bolster their market share.
Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, said closures in areas such as photography and video reflected a sea-change in consumer spending habits, reflected in the high-profile insolvencies of Jessops and Blockbuster.
Reductions in women's clothing stores reflected the intense competition in the sector, he added.
"Upticks in areas such as cheque cashing and pawnbroker reflect a society where a sizeable part of the population is forced to turn to these types of borrowing for basic needs," Mr Jervis said.
Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, said: "The good news is that the significant decline in chain retailer numbers in town centres in 2012 is slowing down. That said, closer examination of the data shows the significant ongoing decline of traditional shops with food, beverage and entertainment taking their place."