The number of food, drink and tobacco retailers has almost halved over the past 11 years as larger chains continue to swallow up convenience stores, according to research from financial advisors Grant Thornton’s.

The retail sector has also suffered 45% more insolvency during 2005 compared to the previous year. The UK marketplace has seen a total of 64,205 registered retailers in 1994 plummet to 33,150 by 2005.

Grant Thornton head of retail David Bush said: “The UK, famously described as a nation of shopkeepers by Napoleon, has now far fewer individual retailers – at least of the kind selling food and drink – than ever before.

“Over the past ten or so years, many will have simply dissolved, perhaps due to a lack of succession and some will have been bought out. However, many also suffered some form of insolvency as a result of failing to cope with the high cost of borrowing in the early nineties, a market where consumer taste has rapidly changed and, crucially, ever stronger competition from the supermarkets, which now extends to them buying up convenience store chains.”

Over the past ten years, Grant Thornton said the number of individual bankruptcy orders, which typically affect sole traders, has reached 5,500.

“What this demonstrates is what is already apparent on most British high streets, the complete demise of the family owned shop, with fewer and fewer sole traders going under because there aren’t that many left,” added Bush.