Retail commentators have described as ‘common sense’ and ‘spot on’ the recommendations in Mary Portas’ report on the UK’s high streets.
In a six-month project, the retail guru was hired by the government to identify ways in which new life could be breathed into the nation’s ailing town shopping centres.
Portas came up with 28 proposals which she believes would help high streets become places where people go not only to shop but where a sense of community can be nurtured.
Amongst the recommendations are to establish Town Teams – strategic management team for high streets; to allow Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become Super-BIDs; to set up a National Market Day to allow prospective retailers to run a low-cost business; for the government to consider using the CPI instead of the RPI to calculate business rates; free controlled parking; better high street environments; to favour town centre development in the National Planning Policy Framework; mentoring of local businesses by large retailers; and disincentives for landlords to leave premises vacant.
BIRA said that Portas’ ideas were “just common sense. Town Teams, BIDs and other town centre management initiatives are all good – and already doing good in many town centres. Mary Portas is encouraging an excellent and already well-established trend. Her report is focussing attention on an issue that affects high streets, shops and shoppers everywhere.”
It said that key to solving the problems was addressing punitive parking rates and upward-only rent reviews, and stressed that the National Planning Policy Framework must make the Town Centre First principle “more than just an empty phrase”.
At Mintel, director of retail Richard Perks commented: “The thrust of the report is very sensible…People still want to shop – that’s why major shopping centres are so successful. And what is a development like Westfield at Stratford but a brand new high street?
“So that’s why Mary Portas is absolutely spot on when she says that high streets that want to survive must invest. Ideas such as more markets are excellent, because they add more excitement to the high street. No one owes a retailer a living. No one owes a high street a living. Consumers go to where they’re best served – and that is as true of retailers as it is of high streets. A high street that gets no investment has no future.”