What next for the high street?
The traditional high street has changed. It is clear for all to see. A walk around many town centres, even affluent, thriving town centres, shows vacant shop fronts, perhaps rough sleepers, a range of betting and charity shops. The changing face of the high street is very obvious. But what is next for the high street & our town centres?
The “new face” of the high street is often presented as a negative and in contrast to a “golden age” when the high street was where everyone went for their shopping requirements. Whether that picture is correct is another matter. Was there really ever a “golden age” of the high street? And secondly are all the changes to the high street really so bad? But first; the Grimsey Review documented the reasons behind the change including the growth of online retailing, our changing habits, the competition the high street faces from other more modern out of town facilities and of course business rates. The report also identifies the “good grounds for optimism” for high streets and Town Centres.
No one knows what is going to happen to high streets and Town Centres in the future. There are 25 recommendations in the Grimsey Review. Communities and technology are likely to be central to the thriving town centres of the future. The good news is that there are ways to achieve these aims: Business Improvement Districts, Town Centre Partnerships, engaged business all exist. Collaboration and partnership in town centres costs money and time – and requires leadership. But it can be done.
The high street is effected by poor air quality, climate change, and labour market shortages. Local store managers, shopping centres and town centre managers need to look at these issues. The weekly briefing in the staff breakout area is usually informed by traditional measures of footfall, stock shrinkage and the dozen other metrics. It is time we started having some different measures of success for the high street.