Store numbers fell for the first time in three years in the second quarter.

Shopping on high street

The change reflects ferocious trading conditions and a lower rate of shop openings on the country’s struggling high streets.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Bond Pearce Employment Monitor, the number of stores fell 0.5% year on year.

It is a “significant” move away from consistent annual store growth.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said the continued expansion of supermarkets has masked “the potential of a much sharper decline”.

“Without them, total shop numbers would have fallen further,” he added.

Despite the decline in store numbers, retail employment rose by 1.8% – the equivalent of 12,648 more full-time jobs – driven entirely by food retailers. 

The Jubilee celebrations and preparation for the Olympics are expected to have driven the seventh consecutive month of employment growth.

Across non-food retailing, total hours worked fell.

However, 83% of retailers plan to keep their staffing levels unchanged, against 58% last year.

The number of retailers indicating they will reduce staffing levels plunged to 4%, compared with 25% last year.

Bond Pearce head of retail employment Christina Tolvas- Vincent said the Government’s efforts to revitalise struggling high streets were “encouraging”.