The number of retail trading sites have fallen to their lowest number since records began with hyper-local supermarkets softening what would have been a much larger decline.
According to figures for the second quarter of 2012, published by the British Retail Consortium, there was a 0.5% decline in the number of retail outlets across the UK compared to the previous year.
The figures showed the worst-hit shops were closed as retail chains begin to prioritise property spend on more profitable areas as consumers hold back on spending.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said supermarkets are continuing to open smaller-format stores which are masking the potential of a much sharper decline.
He added: “Without them, total shop numbers would have fallen further. Even so, retailers’ sentiment about the coming quarter has improved. A year ago a quarter said they would be cutting jobs.
“Now that’s only four per cent. And, the relaxation of Sunday trading laws during the Olympics is expected to provide a boost to the number of hours worked over the coming months.”
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Pearce, added that serious concerns remain, however.
She said: “The number of retail outlets is falling for the first time, reflecting the immense pressure on high street retailers in particular and for non-food retailers, employment levels are down.
“It is therefore encouraging to see the government looking at creative ways to bring vacant high street properties back into use and also offering further help to pilot areas under the Portas project. It will be very interesting to see what the next quarter brings.”