Shoppers who were tempted on to the high street by unprecedented price cuts have been told that 2009 will be a year of heavy discounting and special offers as retailers encourage them to spend.

Although the massive crowds who queued for post-Christmas sales have made the high street look healthy, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the majority of shoppers are spending cautiously.

Rising unemployment, falling house prices and economic gloom were said to have curtailed festive spending, which is expected to be lower than Christmas 2007 when figures are released next month.

Another national chain, childrenswear retailer Adams, looks likely to become the latest victim of the retail squeeze after Price Waterhouse Coopers confirmed it had been approached to act as administrator.

The 75-year-old company - which makes clothes for Boots - has around 260 stores in the UK and is understood to employ around 2,000 people.

High street icon Woolworths has already gone into administration. Store closures started on Saturday with hundreds more to come this week.

MFI, as well as Zavvi, Whittard of Chelsea and The Officers Club all collapsed in the run up to Christmas - although Whittard and The Officers Club were sold on.

BRC spokesman Richard Dodd said: "There's no indication that fundamentals are going to change so customers will go on being reluctant to spend and retailers will have to go on offering big discounts and promotions in order to tempt them in, which is very difficult for retailers.

"They have to be able to make an acceptable margin on what they sell in order to be able to cover their costs."

Shoppers' reluctance to spend in early December sparked a rash of special offers but queues of up to 1,000 people outside some Next stores on Saturday showed the chance of a bargain had lost none of its allure.