WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE TRADITIONAL HIGH STREET?
Now the dust has settled, following the decisive result in the general election and uncertainty surrounding Brexit has to a large extent (for now at least) gone, we are starting to see a relative upturn in the retail and leisure sector – partially helped by consumers being more relaxed about spending.
This is reflected in the take-up of premises. Banks Long & Co has seen a tripling of enquiries since the New Year. Our firm has also completed several high-profile lettings – to Pho, Greggs, Phase Eight, Hobbs, Strays and Whistles and handled relocation moves by McDonalds and HMV.
However, most industry experts are concerned that this “upturn” may only be short-term. They fear more fundamental changes are required to improve the performance of the challenged High Street.
It has been difficult to ignore the much-publicised negativity about the High Street, with the closure of well-known brands such as Toys R Us, Mothercare, Maplin and Poundworld.
Traditional retail and consumer spending habits have changed significantly over the last decade or so and an estimated 30 per cent of all shopping will be done online by 2030. We have also seen an increase in bulk-retailing and out-of-town shopping centres.
But all is not doom and gloom. Lincoln has always managed to buck national trends, thanks to its strong mix of retail, leisure and city centre living. This is underpinned by the ever-growing Universities and rising tourist numbers.
The Government is aware of today’s challenges. It recognises that fundamental changes are needed – not just to regenerate town and city centres, but to ensure that changes are sustainable and capable of responding to the ever-changing dynamics of this sector.
Ministers have introduced programmes including a review of the business rates system, a £1 billion Future High Streets fund and the £3.6 bn towns fund – to be allocated directly to local authorities.
The Government trusts they are best placed to make the right decisions when it comes to their own High Street and town centres. It is giving them the power to shape their own destinies.
Banks Long & Co acts for many leading city stakeholders and regularly advises them on consumers’ ever-evolving habits.
Instead of fighting outside forces, the High Street must recognise its strengths and concentrate on enhancing them. It must become a destination that provides an experience that is unavailable online.
The High Street needs to offer more than just traditional retailing. It must become more diverse, to feature entertainment, restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and town centre living. Stakeholders must also continue to find solutions to regenerate town centres and keep spaces attractive.