Saturday, 19 January 2013

How to make the High Street live again

Although the recession is exacerbating the demise of the traditional town centre High Street it is not the cause of that decline – just part of a long term trend. Private research has shown that the decline started with supermarkets and out of town retail parks then shopping malls followed by online shopping

I now live in a small town overshadowed by the much larger town centre of a neighbouring town. We have no greengrocer, no bookshop selling new books, no music shop (even the second hand records and CDs shop has now closed) nowhere (not even the supermarkets) to buy haberdashery

What are the solutions?  Ealing town centre team considers that fashion shops attract a diverse customer base. Ealing shop keepers quote a Gym, Morrisons and Marks and Spencers as attracting additional customers when they opened up. The chain stores can be part of the solution if a sensible balance is retained. Given enough diversity, their presence can generate additional customers for the small independents too

High Street rents are still rising despite the recession and the business rate is about to be increased by 2.6%. The British Retail Consortium argues that business rates play a major part in the demise of retail

Greedy commercial landlords are also part of what is killing our High Streets. They claim to be charging a ‘commercial rent’ How is it a commercial rent if it means that new shops are forced to close down as soon as their one year ‘sweet heart deal’ on the rent expires and the shop then stays empty – until the next short term sweet heart deal tenant viz the much appreciated greengrocer we had shortly in Tonbridge High Street.

There are solutions, but it needs political will and strong supportive town centre management.

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