Retail collapses soared in the first quarter as companies fell victim to falling consumer confidence and a deteriorating financing environment.

On average, more than seven retailers hit the wall a day in the three months to March. The number of insolvencies jumped 24 per cent on the previous quarter, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers research.

In total, 705 retailers entered insolvency in the period – a 60 per cent rise from 440 in the same period last year.

PwC retail director Andrew Garbutt said last year “relatively weak retailers” were collapsing, but added that 2009 will be “survival of the fittest”.

Garbutt said: “Those with an inappropriate capital structure or a poor proposition will struggle to survive. Even good companies may disappear as they are exposed by low sales volume and debt burdens. Opportunistic retailers will see these failures as platforms to gain share.”