The number of retailers going out of business has risen by 38% in the first quarter of 2012, according to accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy.

The latest statistics from the firm revealed 680 companies went bust during the first three month of the year, up from 486 in the fourth quarter 2011.

Anthony Cork, partner at Wilkins Kennedy, said: “Last year was bad but this year is even worse. Retailers are still struggling with rents that they feel are far above the market rate and banks are particularly reluctant to extend credit to struggling retail businesses.

“The double-dip has pulled the retail sector down sharply. It is hard to see consumer spending rebounding in the current environment of slow wage growth and worries over the Eurozone.”

Some of this year’s high street retailer casualties have included discount clothing retailer Peacocks, The Game Group and Clinton Cards.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) additionally reported slumping retail sales figures for April last week, highlighting zero growth in total sales values, excluding fuel, compared with April 2011 - meaning a real-terms fall. This compares with a 1% decline recorded for the same period by the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) own figures earlier this month.

Stephen Robertson, director general at the BRC, said:"April sales were always going to struggle against a strong performance a year ago helped by better weather, a later Easter and an extra bank holiday then but real-terms sales declines are bad news. Falling inflation offers some hope for customers but disposable incomes are still dropping and people are not spending on things that aren’t immediate needs.

"Retailers are hoping the return of sun in the last few days and the build- up to this summer’s big events produces a much- needed lift in the public mood but a fundamental turnaround remains illusory."