SHOPS are under greater pressure than ever before.

From next week, the Daily Echo will be taking an in depth look at the challenges facing our high streets – and what can be done to boost trade.

Last year saw the disappearance of famous names such as Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld, while a host of other businesses ran into difficulties.

Dorset-based New Look announced 60 store closures, cutting 1,000 jobs. It was one of several retailers to seek a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to cut rents and close stores.

Homebase also drew up a CVA and closed 17 stores, including the one at Poole’s Tower Park. Mothercare and Carpetright also closed branches under CVAs.

Marks and Spencer announced plans to close 100 shops by 2022, and shut its long-established Bournemouth branch in Commercial Road, as part of a turnaround plan.

House of Fraser went into administration and was bought out by Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley. It is not known whether 31 planned store closures will include Bournemouth’s branch, which was set for the axe under a previous turnaround plan.

The difficult news for retailers has continued since Christmas, with HMV in administration and several big names revealing falling sales.

Patisserie Valerie, which revealed details of a black hole in its finances, has also gone into administration, closing its Druckers cafe in Poole’s Dolphin Centre.

Research for the real estate adviser Altus Group has suggested 23,000 shops could close this year, with the loss of 175,000 jobs.

But some towns and shops are bucking the trend.

Nearly a million people came to Bournemouth in the run-up to Christmas, drawn by its Christmas Tree Wonderland, and some traders have reported doing stronger business than the previous year.

In a fortnight of in-depth coverage, we will be looking at issues such as high rents, punishing rate bills, car park charges and the continuing rise of online shopping. We will compare the challenges facing major names with those of small independents.

But it won’t just be about the negatives. We will also be looking at examples of retailers bucking the trends.

We will consider how online can be used to boost business for bricks-and-mortar retailers. We will look at high streets such as Westbourne and Southbourne, which have managed to do well where others have struggled.

We will look at the work of business improvement districts (BIDs), the bodies set up to improve and promote their local areas – and how their success in increasing footfall can be translated into cash in the till.

There will be interviews with retailers, industry watchers, letting agents, BID managers council officials and the ordinary shopper.

And we will seek practical suggestions about what can be done to bring the public into the shops and get them spending.

The coverage will include readers’ views. You can comment online or email, including “Retail” in the subject line.