Government forms panel to save the High Street
Written by Peter Walker
The government has appointed a panel of experts to diagnose issues that currently affect the health of the UK’s High Streets and advise on practical measures to help them thrive now and in the future.
High Streets minister Jake Berry announced that the panel will be chaired by Timpson chairman John Timpson, along with Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive at Power to Change; Gi Fernando, founder of Freeformers; Graham Galpin, a councillor from Ashford council; Emma Mackenzie, director at NewRiver; Eric Reynolds, founding director of Urban Space Management; Stephen Robertson, former director general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC); and Sophia de Sousa, chief executive at The Glass-House.
Berry commented that High Streets of the future will still be commercial centres, but consumers now look for a wider range of experiences, from leisure to health services. “Our future High Streets may well feature more homes, childcare centres and gyms to bring people back and ensure that they keep returning.”
Timpson noted that the recent shift towards more out of town and online shopping threatens the future of many High Streets.
“The panel cannot offer a quick fix solution, but we hope to identify practical and common sense decisions that will help the government provide the support that local communities and businesses need to provide the leisure and shopping facilities people will want 25 years from now,” he added.
Later this summer the panel, in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, will put out a call for evidence seeking what members of the public and young people in particular want from the High Streets of the future.
ParcelHero’s head of consumer research David Jinks stated that his firm’s latest research showed that by 2030 over 40 per cent of all retail sales will be online and up to half of existing High Street stores will have closed.
“We all need a reason, or at least an excuse, to return to the High Street,” he argued. “High Street stores must offer a great shopping experience, and more product expertise, business rates need to be slashed, and most of all, a click-and-mortar approach to retail is urgently needed by stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser.
“Many of the biggest names on the High Street have to get to grips with a combined multiplatform approach to sales: or join the ranks of BHS and Toys R’ Us,” concluded Jinks.
Earlier this month, the BRC called on the government to implement a two-year freeze on business rate increases until 2021 to allow for the modernisation of retailers at this challenging time.
However, the industry body was essentially rebuffed by chancellor Philip Hammond, who reaffirmed existing measures to reduce the burden, including introducing over £10 billion worth of business rate support by 2023.