Major retailers in Britain closed an average of 20 stores a day over the past 12 months, new research revealed.
The numbers of shop closures by high street chains in 2012 was 10 times the number on the year before, analysis by PwC and the Local Data Company found. The survey found that 1,779 stores were closed last year, compared with 174 in 2011.
The data, drawn from studies of 500 town centres across Britain, found that jewellers, health food shops, travel agents, and sports goods shops were among the hardest hit, along with banks, computer games and clothing stores. But other businesses bucked the trend, including pound shops, pawnbrokers, charity shops, cheque cashing and payday loan companies, and betting shops, as well as supermarkets and coffee shops, the report found.
And the number of closures is predicted to rise. Studies of the three months between December last year and February show the rate of closures could soar to 28 a day, mainly through companies falling into administration. The past few months have been particularly tough for many major high street retailers, with Blockbuster, Comet, Jessops and HMV have all collapsing.
Figures from the Local Data Company found revealed 7,337 store closures in England during 2012, and 5,558 store openings. The South East, West Midlands and North West were worst hit, with 376, 265 and 215 more closures than openings respectively. Cheque cashing and payday loan companies fared the best, with a net change of 121 units, while card and poster shops performed worst, with a net change of 188 units.
Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, said: "2012 was the first year that we have seen significant reductions of multiple retailers in town centres across Great Britain with a net loss of nearly 1,800 stores. If one takes an average size of 4,000 sq ft per unit, then this equates to over 7 million sq ft of space. This is the equivalent of 131 football pitches, or just over four Westfield London's.
"We can expect to see this trend continue and indeed accelerate in 2013 as more leases come up for renewal along with the ever increasing demands from consumers for space that delivers an experience good enough to pull them away from their technology devices.
"The end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 has seen the most dramatic period on record as companies controlling more than 1,400 shops went into administration. Will the discounters, pawnbrokers, charity shops, coffee shops and supermarkets continue to fill a large proportion of these closing stores? Town centres will have to adapt faster than ever before to maintain their attraction to consumers."
Christine Cross, chief retail adviser to PwC said: "Although the figures are more disappointing than many had hoped, we have to acknowledge that several of the companies with closures had anticipated these for some time. What is surprising is the speed at which stores have been picked up by value and grocery retailers in particular. Good businesses with good operating models and good people don't fail."
Labour communities spokeswoman Roberta Blackman-Woods said: "David Cameron said the high street must be at the heart of community, but this worrying report is clear evidence of the impact the Tory-led Government's economic failure is having on town centres. Particularly worrying is that we are seeing more and more pawnbrokers, betting shops and pay-day loan companies. Ministers need to empower communities to be able to shape their own town centres."