Mary Portas unveils report into High Street revival

 

Mary Portas: "There is future potential for the High Street but we need to look at it a different way"

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A report into how to revive the High Street by retail expert Mary Portas recommends getting town centres to run more like businesses.

The government has also published research on High Streets' performance which shows that a third of them are "degenerating or failing".

Ms Portas outlines plans for cutting regulations for High Street traders and the launch of a national market day.

But council leaders have criticised her for not consulting them.

Relaxing rules

"The model of the High Street is so outdated," Ms Portas told the BBC. "It is working in the same way that it did in the 1960s, but the 1960s are no longer here."

Ms Portas, the star of TV show Mary Queen of Shops, wants High Streets to be managed through new "town teams" who would be responsible for developing businesses in the area.

Her report recommends relaxing licensing rules for market stalls to make it easier for people to set up stands.

Ms Portas wants some regulations to be axed for High Street traders, including restrictions on night-time deliveries put in place to minimise noise for those living nearby.

A national market day aimed at promoting indoor or outdoor markets and helping drive traffic towards shops is another proposal.

But Ms Portas decided against a moratorium on out-of-town shopping developments - an idea championed by some business groups.

Main recommendations

  • Improve management of High Streets with new "town teams"
  • Affordable town centre car parking
  • "Town centre first" approach in planning
  • Disincentives for landlords who leave shops empty
  • Greater inclusion of the High Street in neighbourhood planning
Free parking

Having affordable town centre parking is another key recommendation.

In a recent survey, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that 50% of their members said the lack of affordable town centre parking had a detrimental effect on their business.

John Walker, chairman of the FSB, said: "Putting in place free controlled parking schemes and introducing a parking league table could go some way in [addressing] this."

But Shona Johnstone from the Local Government Association was critical of the proposal.

She said retail workers could end up taking all the free parking spaces before shoppers got to town centres. "It sounds like a good idea, but isn't going to help," she said.

'Downward spiral'

The High Street Review has been published alongside new government-commissioned research which underlines how badly affected the town centre is.

The report, entitled Understanding High Street Performance, suggests that a third of High Streets are "degenerating or failing".

It says retail spending in town centres has fallen to 42% from 49% in 2000 and is projected to fall further to 40% by 2014.

Chart showing change in shops in town centres

In contrast, both online and out-of-town shopping have risen, with online sales doubling since 2000 to 10% and predicted to rise to more than 12% by 2014.

The performance report also details what it calls the "downward spiral of decline" on the High Street. It begins when a store closes down, followed by a weakened performance in nearby shops, less footfall and increased chance of further closures.

High-profile closures, including chains such as Woolworths and Zavvi, have added to this spiral. Big chains that desert High Streets in favour of larger regional outlets have also played a part in the decline of town centres.

'Sensible ideas'

Richard Dodd, from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said there were a "good number of sensible ideas" in the report.

He said: "Clearly a national market day is never going to be the sole solution, but alongside a range of other measures, it could make a useful contribution to generate interest and stimulate shop numbers, adding to the originality and distinctiveness of particular town centres."

But the Local Government Association (LGA) said it was concerned that the local expertise of councils would get overlooked.

Peter Box, chairman of its economy and transport committee, said: "Councils play a crucial role in growing local economies and improving High Streets and need to be suitably consulted if they are to achieve this.

"We urge Mary Portas to enter discussions with councils on how they can boost local High Streets."

'Not all in crisis'

Retail analyst Matthew Hopkinson from the Local Data Company pointed out that "not all High Streets are in crisis", with some town centres having low shop vacancy rates.

Mr Hopkinson said that the development of new shopping channels during the past 10 years had caused problems for traditional town centre retailers.

"Town centres have to be destinations now, they have to be more than just shopping," he added.

Maureen Hinton, a retail analyst at Verdict Research, said out-of-town shopping centres with free parking and a wide range of stores gave consumers what they wanted.

"The way people shop is around convenience," she added.

However, she said the expansion of services allowing people to order online and collect from local stores was luring shoppers back to the High Street.

"The high cost of driving and an ageing population is also making local shopping much more attractive," Ms Hinton said.

The government will publish its response to Ms Portas' proposals in early 2012.

 

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  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 338.

    OK, Councils currently are strapped for cash and certainly will struggle to find money to subsidise Car Parking.
    One idea that may help is for Retailers to partner with Car Park operators to offer to pay for the car parking when a customer purchases from a store.
    My main concern however is that there is just to much Retail Space in the UK, some of this must be converted to residential!

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 337.

    Much of the diversity in the high street has gone.

    We have now; betting shops, charity shops, fast food joints, more betting shops and ever increasing presence of Tesco Metro, Sainsburys Local etc.

    The larger supermarkets not content with out-of-town supermarket now want high presence too. The very ones who put local business out of business.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 336.

    The huge increase in parking fees by the London Borough of Barnet is proving the final nail in the coffin for many local businesses. Shopkeepers are reporting a significant drop in business since the fees increased and local shops that have been around for many years are closing. Local Authorities appear to be part of the problem, not the solution.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 335.

    If we want the return of the 'old' high street, we need the re-introduction of non 'working' spouses, who have the time to trail around all the shops

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 334.

    My business, The Retro Sweet Shop Huntingdon, has traded for two years now. The first 18 months were very successful, proving that offering personal service and unique products are indeed the way forward. However, the real killer for our High Street is this steadily worsening recession. There so many demands on all of our resources and people are just not spending, which is endangering my survival

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 333.

    Free parking is a non-starter. Where I live there are 2 car parks in the centre, one is free, the other has a charge. The free one fills by 9 and stays like that all day with the cars of those who work in the centre. Abolishing charges encourages more car commuting & congestion. In Scotland hospital parking charges were axed, the car parks just filled up with cars of those who work nearby

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 332.

    297. Chris

    And your problem is? Apart from wanting something for nothing what about the the next driver who can't use that space because someone isn't organised enough to get back to their car on time or hasn't put enough in the meter. Better still get the train then at least shoppers won't have to breathe in your exhaust fumes. You pay for two hours you park for two hours. Not a second longer.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 331.

    We should expect the High Street to decline. It's the price we pay for online shopping, and a price I am very happy to pay, thank you. High Street is higher prices, more hassle, more crowds, more time... ugh.

    Down with the High Street, I say. Replace failing shops with affordable housing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 330.

    What's scary is that anyone takes this self publicist woman seriously! She may be talented in her very specific field, but no one can surely take her seriously outside of that particular niche? Interesting everyone on here gets the idea parking must be cheaper near high streets because it is unaffordable, but she wants to tax out of town provision. She lives in Harvey Nic's bubble fantasy world.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 329.

    "121.rhowarth

    I no longer shop in town centres for one reason - car parking."

    Likewise. It would be nice just to able to complain about the charges, but lack of space is the issue here - drive round for an hour, pay a mint - or click 'buy'. I hate not being able to support local businesses.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 328.

    The reason I don't now (and never will again) shop in town is because the council regard motorists as a cash cow. Paying to park is bad enough but getting huge fines for the slightest infringement is just too much. I got fined £30 for being one minute over time. The attendant saw me walking to the car! I've never been back.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 327.

    We are not only a nation of shopkeepers, we are a nation of shoppers but until local councils stop meddling on issues they don't understand and the shopkeepers offer what we want the future will remain bleak, Any further official interference will only make things worse and well meaning reports will not help.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 326.

    Unless theres a new Great Fire of London, in every town, or new Nazi bombing raids, then towns will not re-build & instead hold onto their view of historical quaintness over meeting modern society needs/demands.
    Public are also much to blame, wanting to keep the old shop facades & protesting about modernism while at the same time not supporting town retailers because access etc is not modern

  • rate this
    +103

    Comment number 325.

    We find it hard to park near our local town centre, so much so that when my wife needs to deposit cheques at the bank I drop her outside, then circle on the one-way system until she emerges...

    This cannot be good for the environment, our bank balance or anything else, but I'm damned if I'm going to pay the insanely high price the local council demands for using a parking space.

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 324.

    I'm an independent shopkeeper in a city suburb. Time and time again I, and others locally, hear the same thing from customers - "Why didn't I come here first, I forgot you were here" . More needs to be done to promote the smaller independents, they are the only ones that provide service and variety

  • rate this
    +39

    Comment number 323.

    Haven't read the entire report, but Mary Portas recommendations seem like such old news to some town centre traders like myself. It's not just rents that are prohibitive in town centres, the government quango, the Valuation Agency has a lot to answer for. It upholds artificially high reteable value. That should be addressed!

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 322.

    Greedy landlords and even greedier / incompetent councils are primarily to blame for the decline of the high street.

    The concentration of the poor and unemployed in some towns is the other big factor....Margate is a prime example of the perfect storm...all three problems simultaneously!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 321.

    i work more than 50 hours a week, i have neither the patience nor the inclination to waste my time, at my local high street.

    I go to the Big Shop, where, I can park my car easily, park my car safely, get everything under one roof, in one trolley [that usually works] and pay once [and noit have my pockets full of change]

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 320.

    Narrow pavements make carrying bags of shopping a real struggle, especially when you're surrounded by people who can't walk in a straight line and never look where they are going! You'll almost certainly have to cross the High Street at some point, which is a mission in itself. It's more expensive. And there is nowhere to park. I haven't used my local High Street in YEARS.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 319.

    Point 5: Make it easier for people to become market traders by removing unnecessary regulations so that anyone can trade on the high street unless there is a valid reason why not

    erm - isn't the point of the regulation to CHECK for the valid reasons?! How is this regulation 'unnecessary'?

 

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