Darren Yates, Head of EMEA Retail Research and Insight at Cushman & Wakefield, comments: “High streets are on the front line of the very rapid structural changes underway within the retail sector as consumer shopping habits evolve and online shopping becomes increasingly important. But high streets are also suffering as a result of increased costs such as higher business rates in many areas and the living wage, both of which have impacted on retailers’ bottom lines. A more joined-up policy approach from government would help to support high streets and ensure they remain competitive in today’s retail environment.
“The public want their high streets to be dynamic and exciting meeting places that provide much more than just shopping. Retail has an important role to play in creating vibrant town centres, but retail alone is not enough to sustain the dynamism that a good high street needs.
“There are opportunities, even on some of the country’s most challenged high streets, to diversify beyond the traditional retail offer and explore alternative uses. Leisure operators have filled the gap in some areas, particularly prime locations, but new homes and offices as well as cultural and event spaces also have an important role to play in increasing footfall and maintaining the vibrancy of high streets. It is certainly not too late for the high street.
“The report is right to recognise the important role of local authorities in supporting local high streets, and in leading the regeneration of town centres. There are numerous regeneration schemes underway around the country from Altrincham to Edinburgh and Bracknell to Coventry, that go well beyond traditional retail. The government must ensure that local authorities have the powers and resources to take control of their town centres and create exciting destinations that meet the needs of their communities.”