The number of shop branches held by multiple retailers has continued to rise in the first quarter of 2012 despite the recent spate of administrations, according to a study by CBRE.

The total number of retail branches held by chain operators - those retailers with more than three stores - nudged up 0.31% in the first quarter of 2012. However catering and leisure branch numbers accelerated at a greater rate - 1.78% and 0.87% respectively.

The number of shop branches used by services companies, including banks and travel agencies, dropped 0.41% over the quarter and have been falling continuously since the 1990s. The fall is due to the switch online, according to CBRE. By comparison, retail branch expansion has continued to rise, despite the steady trickle of administrations from retailers including Peacocks, Game and Clinton Cards.

Over the past five years, the number of retail stores has jumped 9.5% led by non-food goods including clothing and books, whilst both leisure and catering have jumped 33%. By comparison, services chains have dipped 17% over the five years.

CBRE head of retail research Mark Teale said despite the rise, the growth of retail chain branches is slowing since the 2007 downturn.

He said: “The number of additional units taken on annually by chain retailers is now at barely a third of pre-downturn levels. Non-food merchandising by grocers and the entry of discounters has had a knock-on impact on niche-players, exacerbating the branch shakeout triggered by the private equity debt legacy. The shortening of lease periods, resulting in expiry clusters, is also exacerbating the shakeout.”

“The continuing retrenchment of chain retailers into larger, higher productivity centres, including the modern out-of-town stock, looks now to be creating a permanent shift in shopping patterns. The longer the downturn continues, the greater the number of small High Streets that will cease to be viable shopping locations.”