I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the high street is not dead.
There is no doubt that business structures and strategies must now adapt to a multichannel world, but stores still play an important part for many.
While we are seeing larger retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Arcadia facing challenging times, trying to reduce large store estates and remodel legacy systems, some of the smaller players are adapting at a much quicker pace to the changing landscape.
Independent retailers are embracing this opportunity and new store openings provide a unique offer to the local customer. Independents are notorious for having a detailed knowledge of their customer and are opening in new locations where they know their product offering will resonate.
As well as retailers playing their part in keeping the high street alive, it is fantastic to see the proposals from local towns for the Future High Streets Fund putting forward plans to reinvigorate local high streets.
A lot of the initiatives are not dissimilar to those proposed in the Grimsey review – or even the Portas review back in 2011 – with a focus on building community hubs that include a retail, leisure and entertainment offer.
It is refreshing to see the government start to put money behind the regeneration of local high streets and while £25m (the amount councils can bid for) will not cover all requirements, it is a start and will allow initial plans to finally be put into action.
Parking is a challenge for many local towns and investing in this area is paramount to driving the footfall required to make any local high street a success. Digital transformation, better connectivity as well as sustainable initiatives have also been part of proposals.
Fundamentally, high streets must become a destination that local people want to visit, whether it is to shop, attend a gig or take part in a leisure activity. Building vibrant community hubs that focus on the local area and the people that live within it will give each high street its own unique appeal and drive shoppers out of their homes and into stores.