Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Government talks up future of the high street as new competition to find nation's best is launched

Is retail on the up? The government says so

Shoppers in the North West are being asked to celebrate their high streets after a new report revealed increasing optimism and the growing popularity of ‘click-and-collect’ services.

A national competition is being launched today by High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis, alongside new evidence showing that our high streets are rising to the challenge set by consumers who want increased convenience and more flexibility of services on high streets.

In the North West, the number of convenience stores has more than tripled since 2004, and the number of cafes has nearly doubled.

The search, to find and celebrate the best high streets in the country, is being run by the Future High Street Forum and the Association of Town Centre Managers. There are six separate categories in recognition of the diversity of Britain’s high streets: City Centre; Town Centre; Market Town; Coastal Community; Village and parade of shops.

The Government claims its long-term economic plan has supported local high streets with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action tackling over-zealous parking practices.

Many high streets affected by the economy in 2008 are now thriving as a result of making changes to serve their communities in increasingly popular ways and High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis believes this should be recognised. 

High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis
“Whether it is a market town, coastal village or city centre, there are so many high streets across Britain doing fantastic work and now every community will be able to get behind their home town’s bid to show how popular they are.

“This competition will discover where the Great British High Streets are and celebrate their brilliance. I want the public to tell my panel of experts why their area should win. The most popular will get all the accolades that come with being named the best in Britain when we announce the winners in autumn.”

The competition comes as new analysis by Experian – – found that high street managers and shop owners are positive about the future thanks to a strengthening economy and the emergence of the ‘one stop shopper’ who prioritises convenience and leisure. This is contributing to greater footfall and people spending more time on the high street.

The study identifies the rise of this evolving consumer behaviour where shoppers prefer ‘convenience culture’ such as ‘click-and-collect’ services so they can multi-task and have more time to socialise while doing their shopping in this convenient way.

Different parts of the country are catering this in a variety of ways: whether it is giving older people easier access to services, helping bargain hunters browse the best deals online or offering city dwellers more fun and variety. This shift is being reflected in a high street that is rapidly moving beyond traditional retail into a ‘Great British’ experience. 

The report points to the steady growth of convenience stores (+153%), cafes (+75%), fast food (+30%) and restaurants (+20) as proof of this evolution.

Will Lancaster's city centre improvements help put the city on the retail map?

The report on North West retail found that:

  • People want more independent shops
  • Absentee landlords leaving vacant shops in disrepair was an issue
  • Convenience stores have more than tripled
  • Parking is a deterrent
  • Closer links needed between high street and economic development
  • Family values worried about value, incomes, family friendly, internet shopping
  • hard pressed singles social media users on low incomes looking for value
  • struggling pensioner looking for value and easy access to services
  • People are getting older – high streets must offer good service and leisure in nice, safe local places
  • People want leisure experiences the most – high streets must not only offer unique retail, but also social and cultural experience too
  • People want to be able to live on our own terms - high streets must provide more choice
  • People are using technology in everyday life – high streets must provide information, shopping, socialising and deal hunting
  • People are driven by value

To enter the competition, Town Teams will be able to apply for one of six categories which recognise the diversity of high streets: City Centre, Town Centre, Market Town, Coastal Community, Local Centre i.e. precinct or parade of shops; and Village. The competition will be open until the end of August. Town teams are invited to nominate their high streets and bids will be published online so communities can show their backing alongside at Then experts from the Future High Street Forum will decide which are the best from a shortlist of 30. 

• More information on the Great British High Streets competition is available at Support the competition at #GBHighSt

• Do you think the improvements to Lancaster City Centre thanks to the EU-backed "Square Routes" project will help put us back on the map? What do you think about Morecambe city centre? Comment below!

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