Almost one-third of Birmingham's local shopping centres are in decline and some of them have little prospect of recovering without major investment, according to a new survey.
The downfall has been triggered by families switch-ing allegiance from handy corner shops to more remote superstores, research by the city council indicates.
High levels of vacant property, poor parking facilities, and falling populations in catchment areas are combining to hit traders in Selly Oak, Stirchley, Yardley, Frankley and Sparkbrook.
Twenty of the 68 shopping areas outside of the city centre are classified as weak. A further 34 are stable, with only 14 said to be thriving.
Strong centres, where shop vacancies are low and trade is buoyant, include Boldmere, Castle Vale, Mere Green, Perry Barr, Sheldon, Rednal, Witton and Walmley.
The survey also identified parts of Birmingham which do not meet the council's new minimum accessibility standards - all households to be within a five-minute drive of a large foodstore or ten minutes by public transport, and within 500 metres of local convenience shopping.
Areas falling into this category include Sutton Cold-field, where the town centre is without a supermarket, Erdington, Handsworth, Saltley, Balsall Heath and Kings Norton. The findings reinforce public perception, as evidenced in surveys for the council, that recent improvements to the retail offer in the city centre have not been matched in the suburbs.
Although the council has a "flourishing neigbourhoods" policy, new figures show that half of the suburban shopping centres have lost market share during the past ten years.
Only three per cent of retail expenditure in Birmingham goes to local centres, compared to ten per cent in 1984.
The council cabinet will use the survey results to devise a new strategy to regenerate local shopping centres.
One idea being considered is to promote more Business Improvement Districts, similar to the one in Broad Street, where traders pay additional rates in return for guaranteed environmental and security improvements.
The appointment of shopping centre managers is also being discussed.
The survey contains a stark warning that, for some centres, regeneration may be too late. "Several local centres are performing weakly. In a few of these cases, centres have very high levels of vacant property, a situation which has sometimes persisted for many years.
"In these cases, high vacancy levels may be an indicator of a more fundamental change in the role of the centre possibly resulting from a past decline in local population.
"In such circumstances, there may be no realistic prospect of the centre regaining its former status, and if this is not recognised and appropriate action taken, problems of decline, vacant and poorly maintained property are likely to persist."
Ken Hardeman, the cabinet member for regeneration, will help to develop a new shopping strategy.
Coun Hardeman (Con Brandwood) said: "Sustainable local centres are the heart of local communities, so we need to plan for their future.
"It is imperative for us to have an up-to-date picture in order to secure investment. This revised strategy takes a clear look at all the centres, identifies those in need of improvement and looks at what resources are available.
"Currently the council has allocated funding totalling £2.7 million to local centres, but more resources are needed if we are to deliver the strategy.
"We will be looking at ways of utilising the city's contribution to lever-in private funding from new developments and also funding from strategic partners and local traders."