UP to seven out of 10 shops could close as the recession bites deeply, a shock survey revealed.
Business information group Experian said the number of people visiting stores fell by 24% last month as compared with December 2008.
The group now forecasts seven out of 10 shop units across the country will fall vacant this year. . That means a 15% rise in vacancies by the end of 2009 amounting to 135,000 empty units.
The January figure was 1.2% up on the same month last year, but Experian said any benefit in extra sales was negated by widespread and heavy discounting.
Experian said it expected 1,600 retailers to fail in 2009 – a rise of 21% on the same month last year.
It said that supermarkets and discount stores would be the winners over the next 12 months – with retailers of DIY products, household and electrical goods likely to be the worst affected.
The survey said retailers in smaller market towns would suffer “significantly” from the deepening recession – following the loss of major names like Woolworths, MFI and Land of Leather. Jonathan de Mello, retail consultancy director, said: “This year has proved one of the most challenging for retailers for at least 30 years.
The first quarter of 2009 is expected to be especially challenging.
“Sterling has fallen over 20% in the past six months.”