Twelve town centres have been named as the first "Portas pilots", entitling them to funding and expert advice as they seek to regenerate high streets.
They will receive a share of £1.2 million and get tailored support to help them implement rejuvenation plans.
The announcement follows retail queen Mary Portas' review of the high street. Some 370 applications for support were made.
The winning bids are: Bedford, Bedfordshire; Croydon, Greater London; Dartford, Kent; Bedminster, Bristol; Liskeard, Cornwall; Margate, Kent; Market Rasen, Lincolnshire; Nelson, Lancashire; Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland; Stockport, Greater Manchester; Stockton on Tees, Teesside and Wolverhampton, West Midlands.
Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said there would be a second batch of 12 pilots announced by the end of July, and the Greater London Authority are funding three more.
"The best local high streets offer more than simply shopping - they are the beating heart of their neighbourhoods: places to meet, work, relax and come together as a community," Mr Shapps said.
"It's why this competition to become a Portas pilot has captured the imagination of the nation, with communities across the country uniting to support their high streets."
Ms Portas said: "I've been deeply touched by both the quality and creativity of the bids and the momentum Britain's first town teams have generated in just a few short weeks.
"It is now clearer to me than ever that Britain wants its town centres revitalised and the energy and accountability for that needs to rest with the people who live and do business there. My sincere congratulations to everyone who entered."