The British high street is in ‘crisis’ and is close to ‘extinction’ according to a report compiled by retail guru Mary Portas.
Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned the report back in May after an increasing number of shops were forced to close their doors following a downturn in trade. According to figures from the Local Data Company, there are 159 towns in the UK where at least a fifth of the shops stand empty.
In the report that was released today, Ms Portas warns that unless drastic measures are taken to reignite the population’s interest in local store shopping then we should get used to the sight of our high streets slowly disappearing.
Ms Portas will put in place pilot schemes in various towns across the UK so that her “vision” can be tested.
“I believe that our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community. A sense of belonging which, as the recent riots demonstrated, has been eroded and in some instances eradicated,” Ms Portas says.
The recession has hit high stores hard and a lot of familiar favourites have disappeared from our streets over the past few years. The continued growth in the number of out-of-town shopping centres, supermarkets and retail parks is also adding to the pressure by attracting custom away from town centres.This year alone an estimated 20 shops have closed every day across the country. One in seven shops on UK high streets currently stand empty, although in some towns as many as four in ten shops are vacant.
So what is to be done? And what does this mean for us shoppers?…
In the report Ms Portas outlines 30 recommendations that she claims will halt the rapid decline of town centres. Suggestions include increase carpark charges at out of town shops and retail parks, plans to cut red tape and change planning laws to encourage new development in town. She will also call for an “annual national market day”, that will present “new look” high streets at their finest.
Extra in-store sales to attract customers and easier online shopping has been a bonus for shoppers, especially during the Christmas period, but with people keen for a bargain more than ever something will have to give eventually. With store bosses and share holders relentless in hitting those profit margins each year, no doubt it will be the regular public, yet again, who will be forking out for Mary Portas’ ‘necessary’ changes.
Image courtesy of: savethechildren.org.uk