Out of town retail parks are going to overtake the high street as an increasing number of shops close down, the WTM Vision conference heard yesterday.

Peter Williams, senior independent director for clothing retailer ASOS, said out of town retail would soon jump ahead of the high street in terms of absolute spend, despite the rise in petrol prices.

“High street vacancy rates will continue to increase, especially in the north and outside the M25,” he said. “On the high street, when you have a certain number of closed shops, people don’t want to go there any more. They want to go to the more vibrant out of town centres.”

Williams said there would have to be a “re-setting” of high street rental rates if companies are to continue having a presence there.

“Rental landlords will have to face reality that their property isn’t worth what it once was. Councils can help in terms of creating a nice environment for shoppers and helping people park.”

Consumer confidence will continue to be low for the next year at least, he predicted. “Consumer trends are worrying for the next twelve months or so. Making the consumer part with money for an optional purchase is not an easy task.”