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Mobility scooters power UK high street

The combination of a recession in the past five years and an ageing population has changed the face of the U.K.'s main shopping streets so that mobility scooters and hearing aids are becoming increasingly popular as computer games and fashion outlets lose out to the internet.

According to Matthew Hopkinson, the director of the Local Data Company, a leading retail data firm,the number of shops selling hearing aids and mobility scooters is rising on the U.K. high street, by 17 and 2 percent respectively, the Financial Times reported Monday.

Matt Cardy | Getty Images

According to the latest U.K.census, conducted in 2011, people aged 50 to 64 account for one-fifth of the population, with the number of 25 to 44 year olds declining.

(Read more: UK retail: Good data, grim prognosis)

Hopkinson's remarks reflect the changing nature of the U.K. main street and retail sector.

While the last few years have seen many major retailers -- such as music and games chain Zavvi and electrics store Comet -- fall into administration, other more niche names are experiencing a boom.

N Brown, an internet and catalogue retailer that caters for an older consumer whose brands include Simply Be and High & Mighty, recently announced that it would expand its physical presence on the U.K. main street. Chief executive, Alan White, saying its current list of nine shops would increase to roughly 20 within three years.

A spokesperson for N Brown told CNBC via email, "Over the years N Brown has seen a rise in silver surfers...building a high street presence helps raise the awareness of the brand. Simply Be is definitely seeing the benefits of expanding their range of channels to include stores. Brand awareness is 10 percent higher in store catchments and web sales growth in those areas is 5 percent higher."

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the global management consulting firm, was one of the first firms to identify the "silver segment" of the retail market.

The BCG argued that over the next 20 years, the 55-plus portion of the population will account for a huge amount of consumer-spending growth, consisting of at least 50 percent of the market in developed markets.

The consultancy wrote that "companies therefore need to build a deep understanding of this heterogeneous age group. Companies should also adapt their product portfolios and sales approaches, given that consumers tend to develop different preferences as they grow older."

(Read more: Online sales 'to hit £5 billion' this Christmas)

This all comes at a difficult time for the U.K. retail sector.

According to research from the Local Data Company, in the first quarter of 2013, the number of video stores on the high street dropped by 44.75 percent, while photography shops were down 20 percent. Data for the top 500 town centers for the first three months of 2013 showed that independent stores increased by 424 units, but that chains declined in number by 209 units.

The Center for Retail Research said earlier this year that over 60,000 shops would disappear from the high street by 2018, partly due to a challenging economic climate and the rise of Internet shopping.

(Read more: One in five UK shops to disappear by 2018)

The government has been working with retail expert and T.V.personality Mary Portas to revive the U.K. high street, with Portas singling out 27 towns that urgently needed government investment.

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