Shoppers are today urged to buy local in a bid to rescue dying high streets left to rot during a decade of Tory rule.
Some 16,000 stores shut down in 2019 with 140,000 staff axed – the most in 25 years.
As the Government pledged £25m to a few areas, Labour’s Lisa Nandy said: “It’s up to high street heroes to save our town centres.”
The high street has suffered its worst year of job losses for a quarter of a century with more than 140,000 workers axed, a report has revealed.
An average of 2,750 retail jobs went every week in the past 12 months, researchers said, up by more than a fifth on 2018.
The Centre for Retail Research, which conducted the study, warned the “crisis” could see 171,000 go in 2020.
It also reported that 16,073 shops had pulled down their shutters for the final time.
Patisserie Valerie called in the administrators in January after an accounting scandal.
About 70 of its 200 stores closed immediately, with 900 job losses.
Other high profile collapses included fashion firms LK Bennett and Forever 21, and bathroom chain Bathstore.
The Government last night named the first towns that will be helped by a £1billion taskforce aimed at reviving town centres.
But Lib Dem acting leader Ed Davey said it would be “as effective as a chocolate teapot” in fighting back against the internet giants.
With wages lagging inflation, cash-strapped families increasingly use online sellers who can undercut brick-and-mortar stores as they often pay very low rates of tax.
And the CRC’s Prof Joshua Bamfield said cuts to business rates were needed to help shops “thrive” again.
Labour’s Wigan MP Lisa Nandy last night told the Daily Mirror: “A decade of Tory cuts has blighted our high streets with empty shops and payday lenders.
“They have no plan to give us back the well-paid jobs we need to revive our high streets.
“After 10 years of failure, nobody will believe more of their empty promises.
“It’s up to our high street heroes to shop locally and save our town centres.”
The Mirror has highlighted the plight of town centres in our ongoing High Street Fightback campaign.
Among our calls for action are a reform of business rates to level the playing field with the likes of online giant Amazon.
Its worldwide sales rocketed 24% to £53billion in the three months to September.
Yet one of Amazon’s biggest UK operations paid just £1million last year in corporation tax, despite a £2.3billion turnover.
The figures relate to Amazon UK Services, which handles fulfilment centres and customer services.
Christmas offered little respite to struggling shops with early signs suggesting many slashed prices.
Meanwhile footfall for Boxing Day sales plunged 10.6% compared to last year – the biggest drop since 2010.
In the new year struggling retailers often go under when they are hit with a large quarterly rent bill.
And Craig Beaumont, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said two thirds of small retailers were “gloomy about the coming three months”.
Saying retailers were at the “heart of communities” he added: “There’s never been a more important moment to support local shops.
“When you spend locally, there’s a much greater chance small firms will re-spend, invest and hire locally.”
High Street jobs ‘carnage’
Jobs on the high street have plunged by almost 300,000 since 2011, hitting women hardest, a report shows.
The number of retail cashiers and check-out operators fell by 75,500, or 32%, due to the combined effects of austerity and online shopping.
There are now also 64,000 fewer sales and retail assistants, and 64,600 fewer bank and post office clerks.
While around 80% of the 289,000 axed high street jobs were held by women, 90% of the 100,000 new van drivers that have been hired to deliver internet orders are men.
Alan Lockey, head of the RSA Future Work Centre which produced the study, said: “The carnage on the high street has hollowed out many jobs traditionally held by women.
“This is having a profound effect on individuals, families and society.”
Comment: Ditch the waffle and finally act, writes Graham Hiscott
When it comes to the crisis gripping our high streets, the Government has shamefully fiddled while Rome burns.
Every day this year, as ministers talked tough but did next to nothing, around 400 shop staff lost their jobs.
Brexit has made matters worse, by distracting policymakers’ attention.
Yet, even now, the Government shows it’s happier to kick the can down the road than unleash the drastic help needed. Its previously trumpeted business rate cut for small shops is a ruse, as thousands of them don’t pay the tax anyway, while it won’t save most chain stores a penny.
Task forces to help town centres can be good, in time, if they work.
But it’s like spitting in the wind if the public are driven away by costly parking, ticket machines that don’t work and a dire bus service. All the while, online rivals snatch sales while failing to pay their fair share of tax. Yet again, ministers’ talk of blitzing corporate tax avoiders is just hot air.
Any help is welcome and is what the Mirror has been campaigning for.
Now is the time to ditch the waffle, the soundbites, the empty promises.
For every day the Government refuses to dispense the emergency – and, yes, costly – help our town centres need is one when countless lives and livelihoods are ruined.
Swinton: Empty premises blighting a once thriving precinct
In the Swinton shopping precinct in Greater Manchester, many units are empty and locals are lamenting the loss of small independent stores. Rebecca Butler, 33, said: “We used to have a fresh fruit and veg store and a butcher’s.
“I live across the road and it is much easier for me to pop out for things like bread and milk rather than going to the big supermarkets.”
Another resident Brian McNichol, 62, bemoaned the limited choice of shops: “I used to do all my shopping in the high street. But everything has gone. I think it’s because rates are too high.”
Judith Taylor, 69, agreed: “There used to be so many different shops. Now it is either charity shops or cake shops.”
Iwona Tylamn, 45, also sad at the number of vacant shops, said: “It would be good to spend money to help local businesses.” But her daughter Emily Usosike, nine, added: “When you go into the shops people are very friendly.”
In West Bromwich in the West Midlands, an area in line for government help, Denise Hodges, 52, said: “I just think in this day and age it’s made easier to shop online than it is to go shopping.”
The retiree, out shopping with pal Linda Mitchell, 60, added: “I have a grandson and sometimes when I take him to the shops, I think ‘I could just buy that online’.”
Unemployed Casandra Bulisca, 23, said: “I like shopping here because everything is cheaper. I don’t think there are many things that need to change, just clean.”
Cameron Hall, 21, a customer assistant, said: “I prefer high street shops because I only live down the road. The bad thing is that there are a lot of gangs around here…lads who chill over here…probably intimidating for older people.”
Getting to the shops is an issue for Dorothy Rose, 61, a minister of religion, who said: “I don’t shop regularly in high street shops any more. For me it’s more about transport. I think there should be more independent shops.”
£1bn task force gets to work
The first 14 towns to benefit from a £1billion fund to help improve our high streets are named today.
Each will get up to £25million of training, support and access to research from the “High Street Task Force” to give small businesses an edge.
It will be rolled out in 101 areas after being piloted. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The Task Force will provide the tools to get the best advice possible.”
Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said the funds would give communities money and support “to unleash the potential of their towns”.
The Government has also pledged to cut small retailers’ business rates by 50% from April. But Ed Davey, acting leader of the Lib Dems, said: “The Government’s £1billion ‘task force’ will be as effective as a chocolate teapot in fighting the impact of internet shopping.”
He called for an end to “tax advantages” for the big online companies, which were “killing our high streets”.
The 14 high streets being helped
1. Swinton Town centre – Salford
2. Thornton Heath – Croydon
3. Cheadle – Staffordshire Moorlands
4. Aldershot Town Centre – Rushmoor
5. Stirchley – Birmingham
6. Accrington Town Centre – Hyndburn
7. Kendal – South Lakeland
8. Friargate – Preston
9. Coventry City Centre – Coventry
10. Hartlepool Town Centre – Hartlepool
11. Ellesmere Port Town Centre – Cheshire West and Chester
12. West Bromwich Town Centre – Sandwell
13. Huyton Town Centre – Knowsley
14. Withington District Centre – Manchester