Retailers forced to shut up shop as crunch bites

THE lingering recession has forced almost 26,000 shops out of business, draining life from the economy and leaving hundreds of town centres pockmarked with empty premises, figures from The Local Data Company show.<br /><br />One in ten of the 251,462 shops in 705 town centres tracked by the data house closed up in the nine months to end-September, as restrained consumer spending and credit pressures took their toll on frail businesses.<br /><br />Town centre vacancy rates in England and Wales have risen from just over four per cent in the middle of 2008 to nearly 12 per cent at the end of June.<br /><br />And since the high profile collapse of high street retailer Woolworths &ndash; which had a store in most town centres &ndash; 70 per cent of its 800 store portfolio has remained empty.