Local government minister John Healey is due to issue guidance designed to help councils and the retail sector to target what they describe as "under-served" urban districts.
Four pilot projects are to be selected from a shortlist of 12, next week's British Council of Shopping Centres conference will be told.
Healey explained: "The benefits are twofold. First, local authorities will improve the lives of their residents by tapping into shopping potential in their areas and at the same time providing an entry point to employment.
"Second, deprived areas will offer commercial opportunities for retailers because they will be filling a gap in the market."