AN average of 16 shops are closing a day on our high streets.

Store closures hit record levels in the first half of this year as restructurings and the move to online shopping hit the high street, figures show.

The first six months saw a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain's top 500 high streets - up from 1,123 in the first half of last year and the highest number since analysis by PwC and the Local Data Company began in 2010.

An average of 16 stores closed a day - almost twice as many as the average of nine that opened.

The biggest net declines were among fashion retailers, down by 118, restaurants (103), estate agents (100) and pubs (96).

Fashion and restaurant closures have been dominated by one-off administrations and Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs).

They include the high profile closure of all but three of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's restaurants in May.

Only 15 out of 96 sectors showed a net growth in store numbers, and all but two grew by only a single digit number of outlets - takeaways with a net increase of 26 outlets and sport and health clubs with a net increase of 17.

However, store openings rose by around 4%, highlighting the potential opportunities for new entrants as well as established brands, the report said.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: "The record net decline in store numbers in the first half of 2019 shows that there's been no let-up in the changing ways that people shop and the cost pressures affecting high street operators.

"The good news is that there are green shoots, as new entrants are entering even embattled sectors such as fashion. Our research tells us that consumers still want to spend their money in well located and invested stores and leisure venues on the high street.

"However, as consumers continue to change the way they shop and spend their leisure time, the reality is that we may need fewer high streets in the future. This opens up opportunities to repurpose high street space for other uses, while the remaining space evolves to meet consumer demand for convenience, choice and experience."

Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, said: "A number of high-profile business administrations have contributed to the record net decline in high street store numbers, for example in fashion retail and casual dining.

"But the PwC and LDC research also shows that successful operators are taking advantage of the current turmoil to either open stores that were not economically feasible in the past, or to move stores to better locations or to take advantage of lower rents. And it's this nimbleness that will set apart winning retailers in years to come."