The veteran retailer Bill Grimsey has accused the Government of “over-promising and under-delivering” on its plans to revive Britain’s high streets.
The former boss of Iceland and Wickes said the Coalition’s flagship proposals were failing after it emerged that there are now 53 more empty shops in the towns designated “Portas Pilots” .
The pilots, set up in the wake of a government review by Mary Portas, were intending to rejuvenate high streets, but it has since been discovered that several towns spent the extra cash on advisers and bizarre items including Peppa Pig and gorilla costumes.
Mr Grimsey, who has written an alternative high streets review, called on the new high streets minister, Penny Mordaunt, to address the major problems facing high-street retailers.
He said: “Ministers should stop exaggerating progress while tinkering in the margins.
“Let’s just look at the facts. There are over 40,000 empty shops in the UK, a figure that’s remained stubbornly high for years. High-street footfall is down on last year and retail insolvencies have just hit a five-year high. The British Independent Retailers Association has also reported that sales are down for small shops this year. Does this really point towards a high-street resurgence?”
The businessman, who was appointed a high-street advisor to Labour, called on Ms Mordaunt to push through her own suggestion of turning town centres into community hubs.
He said: “For many high streets this is the only chance they have of survival. They will have to look beyond retail where leisure, culture and health, for example, alongside much-needed housing, is the only way to bring back the footfall to support shops.”