It’s been a bad year for high street retail. Numerous brands have gone in to administration with some gone forever. The question on everyone’s lips isn’t “Do you think anyone else will go?” but “Who will go next?
Where does this leave our high streets of towns and cities? Can they thrive on coffee, poundshops, charities and banks? Unlike the shops that have gone, the high street needs to adapt, innovate and change its business model in order to stop declining and thrive once again.
But who needs to do this?
The people responsible for our high streets are the local authorities where they reside. In many cases this could be two or three different local authorities or in some cases a single local authority will be responsible for hundreds of high streets. Under significant financial pressure themselves, local authorities need thriving high streets, they create tax revenue and create jobs easing the burden on social care costs
But what do they change to and how?
Mary Portas makes some good recommendations in her recent report to shift the emphasis to the business on the high street. How about shifting the emphasis of the high street to public services – like going to town to pay your council tax, speak to your councillor or hire a book from the library? Should public authorities move out of their offices in to the high street and provide more services on a Saturday afternoon? How about a high street sure start centre in a old Blockbuster? Or the police station where HMV used to be? Or a doctors surgery, dentist and library in the old Republic clothing shop?
Hang on! – clogging up the high yield commercial outlets public services isn’t going to generate more tax or jobs? No – it won’t. However, it will remove boarded up shop fronts and add diversity to the high-street pulling in more customers for commercial shops that in turn will create demand for more shops. Which can only be a good thing for the high streets?
So – what do you think? Public service shops mixed in with Starbucks, Primark and Boots?