New figures from retail experts show a total of 188 big-name stores closed in the first six months of 2012 – with the decline accelerating in July and August, when a further 65 shops shut their doors.
Shoppers are turning their backs on luxuries and are even putting off essential purchases such as clothes and furniture as a spirit of "make do and mend" takes hold in the face of tough economic times.
Glasgow, which bills itself as Scotland's shopping capital, lost most outlets, with 105 closing and only 47 opening, giving a total fall of 58, compared to Edinburgh, which had a net loss of two.
The report came on another gloomy day for the Scottish economy, with new figures showing the number of people out of work rose 7000 to 222,000 between June and August, taking the Scottish unemployment rate to 8.2%, above the UK rate of 7.9%.
The shops bucking the trend are those able to thrive when less money is available, such as discount stores, pawnbrokers and charity shops.
But the survey is bad news for councils fighting a losing battle as their high streets have become filled with empty units.
The report, by financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), states that, while 175 stores opened during the first eight months of this year, there was a net loss of 78 high street shops.
In that time, big names such as Peacocks, Habitat, Game, Jane Norman and JJB Sports have either closed their doors or gone into administration, while many smaller retailers have been forced out of business.
Bruce Cartwright, head of business recovery at PwC in Scotland, said: "Despite the promise of an Olympic feel-good boost for retailers, it appears the vagaries of the British climate, combined with rising inflation, a squeeze on consumer spending, and dented consumer confidence – leading more people to look for the best deal online – have not delivered the much-hoped-for gold.
"Store-dependent high street retailers continue to experience a drop in sales and reduced footfall. For those in distress, this could be exacerbated by simply having too many locations."
Elsewhere, Dundee had a net loss of nine shops, with Paisley losing six overall. Both Aberdeen and Ayr gained two. There was a 0.9% fall in sales during August, on top of a 0.7% decline in July, PwC said.
The Scottish Government has launched a town centre review group, headed by leading Scottish architect Malcolm Fraser, to try to breathe new life into high streets.
Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "In the past shop closures have been associated with the independent sector. However, in the past 10 years we've begun to see chain stores close – likely due to the growth in out-of-town stores and the growth of e-commerce.
"The FSB is sitting on the group, where we'll be making the case for more to be done to bring a new range of non-retail employers on to our high streets.
"This would fill some empty units and bring some life back into these places so important to our communities while giving a much-needed boost in passing trade to existing retailers."
Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said the city remained the number one shopping destination in the UK outside of London, given the retail vacancy rate stood at just 11.5%.
However, he added: "The prime location is holding up but there is a fraying around the edges emerging, especially in secondary sites. Retailers are having to respond to internet shopping and to continued investment in the out-of-town centres."
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