Retailers need as few as 100 shops to achieve national coverage, compared with up to 300 three years ago, ex-Selfridges chief Peter Williams said.

Speaking at the British Council of Shopping Centres conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Williams said the rise in online meant retail locations around the country need a fundamental reinvention.

He called for reduced rents and a reduction in property taxes to encourage retail entrepreneurs appealing to the younger generation of web-savvy shoppers to take the place of national chains whose stores have closed. “Don’t expect national chains to return to those locations,” he said.

BCSC president and John Lewis head of retail development Jeremy Collins admitted the shopping centre development model will have to change, with anchor tenants not receiving the same level of incentives. “We’re going to have to meet in the middle,” he said.