Multiple retailers closed 20 stores a day on average between January and May as they slashed costs amid punishing trading conditions.
Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Local Data Company revealed clothing retailers and jewellers are closing the most shops.
However, retailers in other categories have been shutting stores too. Retailers such as Thorntons, Mothercare, HMV and Carpetright have been closing shops this year as they contend with the tough trading environment.
Supermarkets and convenience retailers have bucked the trend, showing growth in store numbers in the first half of the year.
The study, drawing on data from 300 town centres, coincides with PwC’s insolvency figures, which show there were 375 retail insolvencies, including small retailers, in the second quarter - a 9% increase on the equivalent period last year. Retailers including Habitat had to call in administrators in the period.
PwC insolvency partner and retail specialist Mike Jervis said: “Retailers will continue to struggle for the next six months and we will see high levels of financial distress among certain types of retailers such as clothes shops.
The combination of rising inflation and dented consumer confidence has led to people trying to find the best deal online.”
However, despite the rise of online retail, other research this week showed that consumers still value the physical format - 59% rating their experiences in stores as better than their experiences online, according to research from Arc, part of Leo Burnett. It concluded that retailers must keep up with shoppers’ demands for experiential store formats.
According to Dr Alan Treadgold, Leo Burnett’s global head of retail strategy, retailers must offer newness in their product ranges and offer service that gives a point of difference to online.
He said retailers must exploit technology such as self-checkouts and payment by smart phones. He maintained: “Customers expect to engage with retailers when they and how they want to.”
Arc’s study ‘Re-imagining the Retail Store: The Shoppers’ Perspective’ encompassed responses from 2,000 UK shoppers across 36 retail store brands.