According to the study, which updates a survey that has been running since last year, a clone town is a place where the individuality of high street shops have been replaced by a monochrome strip of global and national chains - somewhere that could easily be mistaken for dozens of bland town centres across the country. The report found 42 per cent of high streets fell into this category.
A further 26 per cent of town centres are at risk of becoming clone towns and have been labelled 'border towns', meaning borderline clone towns. The remaining towns retain a large number of independent retailers and restaurants and are classed as 'home towns'.
NEF policy director Andrew Simms said: 'Clone towns have a triple whammy on communities: they bleed the local economy of money, destroy the social glue provided by the real local shops that holds communities together, and steal the identity of our towns and cities. Then we are left with soulless clone towns.'
Commenting on the report, British Retail Consortium director-general Kevin Hawkins said:'Most people regard a thriving, prosperous retail centre as a key ingredient for the success of their community. The quality of retail provision can have an important bearing on the perceptions of a town or region and can help to build a national and international reputation as a premier destination in which to invest, work, live, visit and learn. For most people this inevitably translates into a desire to have instantly recognisable brands.
'Consumers have demonstrated an ever-growing appetite for the convenience provided by modern supermarkets and the one-stop shop has become part of our language. Consumers have clearly voted with their feet in their energetic patronage of such stores.'