"The high street as we know it is dead," said a Labour Party business advisor tonight in a programme focusing on Penzance town centre.
BBC Inside Out sent Labour Party advisor Bill Grimsey to west Cornwall to evaluate the struggle faced by town centres.
The former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland said the town was typical of struggling high streets across the country as he highlighted how one in seven shops in Penzance is empty.
"I say the high street as we know it is dead," he said. "The hustle and bustle of 40 years ago has gone and it's not coming back."
He highlighted how the former Wooworths was now a pound shop, and said the town was full of empty retail units, charity shops and money exchanges.
Even Causewayhead, which is often praised for its high occupancy rates and proliferation of independents, was singled out for the empties and charity shops "creeping in".
Sasha Williams, of The Granary, said she blamed increasing rates and energy bills, but admitted her shop was given a rate relief.
Rebecca Welsh, of Simpsons, said out of town retailers were responsible for the decline of the high street.
Grimsey said he believed towns like Penzance needed a plan to diversify. "We need more housing, offices and community facilities in our high streets," he said.
Architect Keith Bell, Penzance Chamber of Commerce chair Dick Cliffe and Afred Smith owner Marcus Wilkinson were described as the "movers and shakers" of Penzance, with a plan for the town.
"I wish them all the luck in the world because they are going to need it," Grimsey added.