20 stores a day are shutting up shop for good

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Retailers are closing an average of 20 shops a day as squeezed consumer spending takes its toll on the high street. Retail insolvencies shot up by 9 per cent to 375 in the second quarter of the year, with clothing stores, jewellers and bookshops the hardest hit, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Local Data Company, published yesterday.

Mobile phone shops, music shops and pubs and nightclubs are also struggling as the combination of rising inflation and looming government cuts drag households' disposable incomes to their biggest slide for three decades, according to some estimates.

A string of big names have either folded or committed to shrinking their operations in recent months. Former high street stalwarts such as Thorntons, Jane Norman and Habitat are all but gone, while the likes of Carpetright and Mothercare are cutting back.

According to the PwC research, struggling retailers on average either have closed, or plan to close, half their portfolios as a result of the financial crisis. The research looked at 300 town centres across the country,

Some glimmers of light appeared amid the doom and gloom yesterday. Supermarkets, convenience stores and cafés are bucking the trend with growth in the first quarter, while pawnbrokers, take-away restaurants and bookmakers also doing relatively well.

There are also stark regional variations in the PwC findings. The number of shops in Scottish town centres has fallen 30 per cent this year; numbers have also dropped in the south-east of England (19 per cent), and in the West Midlands (17 per cent). Other parts of the country, though, have seen big increases – such as the 48 per cent rise in shop numbers in the south-west. Nationwide, the number of shops has gone up slightly over the year so far.