More than a fifth of Britain’s stores will close by 2018, experts warned yesterday.

The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) published its analysis of how UK retailing will have changed by 2018 yesterday as increasing numbers of customers switch to internet shopping.

The study said:

  • Total store numbers will fall by 22%, from 281,930 today to 220,000 in 2018.
  • Job losses could be around 316,000
  • The share of online retail sales will rise from 12.7% (2012) to 21.5% by 2018 or the end of the decade.

CRR director Professor Joshua Bamfield said: “High streets need to combine the enthusiasm generated by Mary Portas with realistic and well-managed plans. The focus should be on declining sites in lower income areas.

“Empty shops should be turned into homes, service, entertainment and leisure outlets, offices, surgeries, and other facilities for which there may be local demand.”

The CRR’s Retail Futures 2018 report blamed the poor growth in consumer spending – up just 12% since 2006 – and soaring operating costs, up 20%, for the challenge on the high street. And while it said the high street was in danger of losing one in five – 61,930 – stores, independents will be hardest-hit, with more than one in four closing.

High streets in Wales will be worst affected with 29% of shops disappearing. The north west will lose 28% of its shops and the shutters will fall on 27% in the East Midlands.

London will be the most resilient with a 9% decline and the south east will see 13% of high street stores close.