Retail veteran warns of 'death spiral' for shopping streets
Thursday 02 February 2012
A veteran retailer has urged the Government to reject Mary Portas's plans to save the high street, claiming many shopping streets are "in a death spiral".
Phil Wrigley, the chairman of Majestic Wine, who has held directorships at New Look, Debenhams and BHS, likened high streets to the shipbuilding industry and said many should be converted to housing.
In a speech at Oxford University, he said many shopping streets were "irrelevant to the needs of shopping today" as people chose instead to shop on the internet or at supermarkets and out-of-town malls.
He said the findings of TV star Portas's review into how to save the UK's high streets, which has an average of one in six shops empty, held the "right diagnosis, wrong prescription".
The self-styled Queen of Shops made 28 recommendations to the Government, including setting up national market days and "town teams" to get retailers, landlords and councils to work more closely together and introduce more free parking.
But Mr Wrigley decried the Government's efforts as "propping up a failing sector".
He said: "Unlike Mary Portas, I don't think we can continue to try and muddle through, supporting the traditional high street model."
He added: "There comes a point when the vacancy rate is so high that no new retailers will come in to a location because they don't want to be sited among empty shops. It is, in effect, a death spiral.
"There is some debate about where the threshold lies but it is probably between 20% and 30%."
Blighted high streets should be turned into housing, which would still have some shops but on a much smaller scale.
By 2025 out-of-town shopping malls and leisure centres would converge to become "leisure villages in which we take brief holidays", he said. The rise of the internet would herald fewer but larger stores.
In comments reported by the Financial Times, he added: "Retailing will never be the same again, but there is much to be gained from facing up to this fundamental and irreversible truth.
"In doing so, we might just create the space in which we can re-cast and revitalise our shopping centre communities."
- 2 Question Time's 'passionate highlander' is the William Wallace of the Better Together campaign
- 3 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Question Time's 'passionate highlander' is the William Wallace of the Better Together campaign
Israel-Gaza crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
iJobs Money & Business
£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...
£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education are seeking a Fi...