POLITICS
24/09/2013 06:02 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 08:33 BST

18 Town Centre Shops Closing Per Day, While Betting Shops See Surge

AP
Boarded-up businesses are a reality on many UK shopping streets

Town centre shops closed at a rate of 18 a day over the first half of the year, despite signs of improvement in the wider economy, research has shown.

The rate fell from more than 20 during the same period last year, but it was charity stores, betting shops and cheque cashing outlets that picked up the slack. This comes after research earlier this month found that the number of empty shops on British high streets has stayed roughly the same over the last year.

The latest research found that video and photography shops and women's fashion retailers suffered the worst drops in numbers. Ex-Dragon Theo Paphitis warned last week that British high streets were a "ticking time bomb" that needed help "sharpish".

Betting shops, coffee outlets and supermarket branches were increasing on British high streets, according to the research.

The findings came after a study of 500 UK town centres from accountants PwC compiled by the Local Data Company, which showed that 3,366 outlets closed in the six-month period, compared with 3,157 openings, a net reduction of 209 shops.

This comes as chancellor George Osborne welcomed the fact last week that the economy was "turning a corner" and "looking better".

However, the figures were a marginal improvement on the net reduction of 953 over the first half of last year, which was caused by more shop openings on the high street and fewer closures, the report said.

This comes as one of the UK's leading independent record stores warned that independent record shops could all go bust within three years due to people shopping at places like Amazon.

Doug Anderson from Coda Records in Edinburgh told the Ethical Consumer magazine: “Do people seriously think that Amazon are good guys and will keep their prices cheap when they’ve no competition? When the last store closes prices will shoot up and people will then have no choice but to shop at Amazon.”

According to the LDC's research, coffee shops and hearing aid outlets were among those increasing, as were convenience stores, as large supermarket groups move into the sector to bolster their market share.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, said: "The good news is that the significant decline in chain retailer numbers in town centres in 2012 is slowing down.

"That said, closer examination of the data shows the significant ongoing decline of traditional shops with food, beverage and entertainment taking their place.

"The pressure from online competitors, supermarkets and out of town providers will only increase."