The number of shops has dropped by 0.5% over the past quarter in comparison to last year - representing 88 fewer retail outlets - according to the latest BRC-Bond Pearce retail employment monitor for Q2 2012.
More optimistically, the monitor showed that retail employment had risen by 1.8% compared with Q2 2011, the equivalent of more than 12,500 more full-time jobs. The BRC said this was "driven entirely by food retailers," however, revealing that in non-food retailing the number of total hours worked fell.
The proportion of retailers suggesting they will decrease staffing levels over the next quarter has fallen to 4%, compared with 25% this time last year. The monitor also suggested that 83% of those questioned said they will keep staffing levels unchanged - just 58% said this last year.
Big events such as the Jubilee were credited with giving what the BRC described as "a limited boost" to employment levels in retail. But "underlying weakness in the economy
and consumer confidence" were said to be responsible for the poor sales and job numbers in non-food retailing.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Overall retail sales growth across the first half of 2012 was no better than a year earlier and the first decline in store numbers among retailers in the survey since it started in October 2008 shows the worst-hit shops being shut as customers hold back spending.
"Supermarkets, continuing to open smaller-format stores, are masking the potential of a much sharper decline. Without them, total shop numbers would have fallen further."
He added: "Even so, retailers' sentiment about the coming quarter has improved. A year ago a quarter said they would be cutting jobs. Now that's only four percent. And, the relaxation of Sunday trading laws during the Olympics is expected to provide a boost to the number of hours worked over the coming months."