The number of UK stores could fall by 22% by 2018 as customers continue to keep a close rein on their spending and the popularity of online shopping increases, a new report by the Centre for Retail Research has warned.

Despite the Portas Pilots, the number of high street stores are expected to fall by 19.9% in the next five years, according to the CRR’s Retail Futures 2018 report.

An even greater impact would be felt by neighbourhood stores, which are expected to fall by 26.2% to 34,587, as a result of “the declining profitability of neighbourhood shopping in many areas, the unwillingness of multiple retailers to continue operating in small neighbourhoods and the move towards perceived lower prices and better availability of stores in town centres, retail parks and internet shopping”.

The situation was likely to vary drastically across the country, with shops near low-income populations in secondary or tertiary shopping areas most vulnerable.

Stores in tourist and prosperous areas with new housing and young families were likely to continue prospering.  London, the South East, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester, Glasgow, Oxford, Harrogate, and Brighton were most likely to perform well.

The share of online retail sales is expected to rise from 12.7% to 21.5% by 2018. While food online sales are currently low at just 3.7% of all food sales, the report expects this to hit almost 10% by 2018 as the supermarkets develop their offers.

The Department for Communities and Local Government welcomed the report. “It is clear that high streets need to meet the changing needs of today’s consumers in order to prosper,” a spokesman said.

The government has supported 27 Pilots and 330 Town Team Partners across the country to promote innovation and joint working between councils, retailers and business.

“We have cut business rates for small shops, scrapped Whitehall guidance that pushed for higher parking charges, and the local retention of business rates now gives councils a direct financial stake in their high street.

“We have delivered a ‘town centre first’ planning policy, and are making it easier to get empty and redundant buildings in town centres back into productive use,” he added.