Experts are jumpstarting revival work on some of the most challenging high streets and making sure other communities have the tools to increase footfall on their own shopping streets.
Some retail streets that are struggling to compete have been helped by the experts who have been running intensive workshops for shopkeepers, councils and community leaders.
A new online action pack has been developed on the back of these sessions which sets out all the learning and tips so all communities can access the advice quickly.
The workshops and the action pack cut through the jargon and bureaucracy and explain the first steps people need to take to bring life back to their parades, shopping streets and retail centres.
Retailers and representatives from areas keen to revive their streets or those looking for new ideas to make them more successful attended the workshops and have now committed to work together to drive forward a revival of their local high street.
The government is committed to supporting high streets as part of its long-term economic plan and has provided local shops and businesses with a billion pound package of investment. It also backed the hugely popular Great British High Street competition that saw towns and villages across the UK battling it out for the coveted title of best high street.
This renewed focus has led to revival for many high streets across the UK with latest figures showing that year-on-year average weekly retail sales increased by 4.8% in January. This was the 23rd consecutive month of retail sales growth and the longest period of sustained year-on-year growth since May 2008. In addition, overall vacancy rates are now at their lowest level since 2010, and reoccupation rates for the high street are much higher, at 70%, than they are for shopping centres or retail parks.
High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said:
Thanks to this government’s efforts we have transformed many of the country’s high streets but we know that some shopkeepers and community leaders have been frustrated by not knowing the first steps they should take to jumpstart action.
The workshops we’ve spearheaded have shown many people working in some struggling shopping streets how they can begin the work that will bring benefits for their business and the wider area.
There is enormous potential for our high streets and the action pack ensures people have the tools and know-how to bring life back to their streets.
The pack includes short, easy to use guides aimed at retailers and local people who are looking to take the first steps towards supporting their high street. There are easy tips for traders to support their shopping areas and jargon-busting guides to local bureaucracy.
The action pack also includes videos with advice from experts Martin Blackwell, former chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management and Chris Wade, a retail consultant who both have lots of experience of reviving high streets and were 2 key experts leading the workshops.
Another guide gives a first-hand account of how Johnny Hayes chairman of the traders’ association in York’s Bishy Road got local partners working together to support their high street.
The pack also includes advice for councils on how to set up their own workshop in their area to tackle the problem of lifeless high streets. The whole pack will be available on the Great British High Street web portal.
There are a lot of opportunities for high streets that step forward and adapt to new ways of doing business. A report by Southampton University found that far from harming high streets, innovations like click-and-collect are starting to bring life back to town centres.
The report claimed that within 5 years, seven out of 10 on-line shoppers will prefer to collect goods themselves rather than risk missing a delivery at home. It also found that people are now doing more top-up grocery shopping with convenience stores on track to account for a quarter of the entire grocery market by 2019.
In addition, the report found that the ‘leisure aspect of shopping trips is a significant driver of footfall’ and that high streets that include a good range of cafes, bars, restaurants not only increase the ‘dwell time but the average spent during trips to town’.
The new online action pack is the latest in a line of government-backed initiatives to revive our high streets, including targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.
The Kick Start your High Street Action Pack is available here.