The ACS has teamed up with Oxford University's Saïd Business School to implement the two-year fact-finding project, known as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).
The aim of the project, which kicks off next month, is to set out hard facts based on "credible academic grounding" that can be used to make a better case for the survival of local shops, said the ACS.
"This project will help to explain and qualify community value in social and economic terms and with a rigour hitherto missing in this important policy debate," said ACS CEO James Lowman.
The project is 50-50 funded by the government and the ACS and Lowman said the ACS was committing more funding year-on-year to developing its evidence base.
A research associate appointed by Saïd Business School will work on the project from ACS head office, publishing interim findings and then a final report in 2012.
The ACS said that issues would include understanding exactly what consumers value about local shops, as well as exploring the economic links between shops and their communities.