More than a fifth of British shops will close down over the next five years, a report published today has claimed.
The total number of shops in the UK will drop by 22% from 281,930 to 220,000 by 2018, as consumers move from shopping in store to buying online, according to The Centre for Retail Research.
As many as 316,000 jobs could be lost as a result.
More than a third of town centres - 41% - are expected to see a “rapid” decline, with Wales, the North and the Midlands most vulnerable.
The CRR described this as a “looming retail crisis”, calling for “radical changes” to be made by retailers, town centres and the government to “preserve what is best in retailing”.
Store vacancy rates across the country have increased from 5.4% in December 2008 to 14.1% in March 2013, a rise of 161%.
As fewer people shop in stores, online retail is set to account for 21.5% of total retail sales by 2018 compared to 12.7% today, giving the UK the highest online retail share in the world.
High streets are estimated to be receiving a far smaller proportion of overall consumer spend than in the past; the CRR says by next year it will account for 40.2% of total customer spend, compared with 50% in 2000.
The report claims that retailers with a strong web offering now need just 70 high street stores to create a national presence compared to 250 in the mid 2000s.