Retailers have given a cautious welcome to the government’s £1m plan, announced at the weekend, to pick 12 towns to try out Mary Portas’ ideas for reviving British high streets.
The towns will be chosen via a government-run competition, and will get financial backing along with advice from both government and the retail guru herself. The plan follows on from Portas’ recent commissioning by government to come up with proposals for halting the decline of the nation’s traditional shopping centres.
The British Retail Consortium said that the idea was “a good start towards meaningful action which could help our high streets. The BRC is pleased the government is taking swift, initial action on key aspects of the report.”
However, it but warned there must also be progress on issues requiring action at a national level. It said that the 5.6% cent business rates increase due to come into effect in April – and clearly not under the control of local town centre managers – continued to pose a danger to the survival of some town centre retailers.
BRC director of business Tom Ironside said: “The Mary Portas review came up with a number of sensible ideas to help breathe new life into struggling town centres, many of them reflected in the BRC’s own campaigning. It’s great to see action being taken to start making some of her recommendations a reality. Town centres do need to be actively managed and government is right to recognise investment is often needed, although £1m will not go far.
“We look forward to seeing the more detailed government response promised by the spring. It’s essential there’s meaningful action on some of the bigger, national issues which cannot be trialled in local areas.”
He went on: “Legislation is needed so effective Business Improvement Districts can do more, and the costs of doing business at the heart of towns and cities need to be addressed. The eye-watering 5.6% business rates rise coming into effect in April is an obvious challenge to the survival of valued town centre retailers.”