Tuesday, 6 March 2018

How to revive the health of high streets > focus on bringing back jobs and leisure activity to town centres

The 'future of the high street' has been an ongoing concern for some time - with campaigns going back at least five years:
Futures Forum: Can anyone save the High Street?

Whether the District Council can 'do anything':
Futures Forum: The power of local government to determine the future of high streets
Futures Forum: Local Retail Levy: Exmouth Town Council support Transition Town Exmouth initiative
Futures Forum: District Council decides against the Local Retail Levy

In East Devon, there are very specific issues which clearly affect the health of the high street.


Charity shops:
Business rates:

Street markets:

If jobs return to town centres, shops can prosper

As the Centre for Cities thinktank has argued, this is because the health of the high street is a marker, not a driver, of local economic regeneration. What draws people into town and city centres is not primarily shops, but jobs. And in small and medium-sized cities, an increasing number of jobs have been relocated away from their centres to out-of-town sites. This shift has been actively encouraged by government policies such as setting up enterprise zones, which provided tax incentives for businesses to relocate to areas that are often away from centres, and offering subsidies for out-of-town business parks.
This is bad for the local economy – encouraging businesses to establish themselves in a town or city centre fosters more innovation, competition and collaboration. The shift is also bad for social cohesion and bad for the environment, as out-of-town business and retail centres can often only be reached by car.
The “retail-first” focus on revitalising towns is also doomed because it suggests a kind of retail Luddism; an attempt to make a forced return to the shopping habits of the past. Consumers have a will of their own and trying to predict future trends is notoriously difficult. Who could have foreseen the revival of a bookstore chain like Waterstones in the age of ebooks, or the proliferation of high street coffee shops? Local councils would do better to focus on bringing back jobs and leisure activity to town centres, and allowing the market to offer what these new consumers really want to spend their money on.
The imperative to restore our town centres to the thriving exchanges they once were is important. But it will not be achieved by channelling subsidies to shopping-centre developers, or offering tax discounts to struggling shops. Policymakers must focus on a much more fundamental driver of local regeneration: the jobs that will draw in consumers to the British high street of the future, whatever it may look like.
The Observer view on the collapse of Maplin and Toys R Us | Editorial | Opinion | The Guardian

See also:
Apocalypse now for Britain’s retailers as low wages and the web cause ruin | Business | The Guardian

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