Next month will see the long awaited high street report by retail guru, Mary Portas, published. A blueprint for the future of the British high street, Portas’ focus has been on finding initiatives to support and help small and independent business’ thrive. The key component of the report will be tackling the issues of vacant shops, preventing the creation of “clone towns” and increasing the number of small and independent retailers trading in local high streets.
At a meeting with MPs last week, Portas said what is needed is a combination of “vision, entrepreneurship and planning”. She wants to use tax breaks and other forms of incentives to encourage retailers and developers to regenerate town centres rather than build new out of town shopping centres.
To put her reviews to test, it is understood Portas will be engaging with two ‘pilot’ towns to put some of her ideas into practice. Provincial towns are all eagerly awaiting Portas’ review as they are being hit ever harder in tough economic times; for instance, out of town think tank – Action for Market Towns – based in Suffolk is calling for radical initiatives. In its new report ‘21st Century Town Centres,’it claims that ‘people power’ is the key to stimulating growth and helping local shops to thrive. Among the initiatives proposed in the report are High Street UK, a US inspired model for resident-led town centre regeneration, and My Card, a new loyalty card system that supports high street and independent retailers by rewarding local shopping.
AMT’s policy manager, Alison Eardley, said the report suggests practical ways of encouraging people back into the town centre to help preserve the distinctiveness of Britain’s high streets. She added: “We encourage Mary Portas, in her review into the UK’s high street, not only to improve the opportunities available to the independent retailer but also to explore the wider role of the town centre as a focal point for neighbourhoods and social activity.”