Town centre stores are shutting down at a rate of 18 a day across Britain, according to figures.
More shops are closing than opening with clothes stores, video and photography retailers suffering the hardest, while charity shops, bookies and cheque cashing outlets continue to grow.
The data from the PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Local Data Company also reveal that the South East and East Midlands suffered the hardest in the first six months of the year, with both seeing a net fall in stores over the period, while Yorkshire performed best with a slight increase.
Mark Hudson, retail partner at PwC, explained: “This set of figures represents the continuing transformation of our traditional retailers and stores estates as they respond to the changing behaviour of their digitally-enabled customers.”
Analysing 500 UK town centres, they showed 3,366 stores closed while just 3,157 opened, a net reduction of 209 shops.
This was an improvement on the same period last year when the net reduction was 953, but shows the high street is still struggling.
Many retailers have blamed the high business rates for causing a decline, with some arguing for an online sales tax because online retailers are not burdened with the same rates bill.
The British Retail Consortium is urging the Government to cap the rise to 2%, rather than in line with RPI, and to bring forward a rates review because so many rents have fallen – rates are calculated on rents from 2008.
Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, added: “Closures in areas such as the photography and video sectors reflect the sea-change in how consumers are spending – the well-publicised insolvencies at Jessops and Blockbuster are stark proof of that.”
Elsewhere, convenience stores have also seen a rise in high street openings, as supermarkets continue to tap into what is now one of the biggest growth areas in groceries.
Morrisons and Waitrose have also joined the convenience store revolution, with the former snapping up several empty Blockbuster and HMV stores.