Editorial: Gimmicks won't save our high streets

 

Share
Related Topics

News of a major British high street retailer announcing thousands of job cuts or going into administration comes round with depressing regularity. Earlier this week, the fashion chain Republic took the latter course, following Blockbusters, HMV and Jessops into a place of no return.

The difficulties faced by companies such as these have three main causes: profound changes in consumer behaviour, disruptive technologies and, now, recession. Rescuing the high street, therefore, requires both creativity and determination. Sadly, those two qualities are distinctly lacking from the efforts expended on the so-called “Portas Pilots”, the towns whose fortunes the Government invited the retail expert Mary Portas to try to transform.

Freedom of Information requests seen by this newspaper reveal that 11 pilot schemes, set up following the Portas Review in 2011, have completely failed. Of the £1.2m allocated to those towns, just 12 per cent has been spent, some of it – such as the £1,610 to pay for a person in a Peppa Pig costume – woefully. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Government is responding to the deracination of Britain’s high streets with mere gimmickry.

The long-term challenges may not be soluble. Social changes and rapid technological innovation, together with prolonged economic gloom, are a toxic combination. But there are innovations that local councils should enact to encourage business.

Reducing their reliance on car parks for revenue, and so lowering car parking charges, could encourage consumers to shop in the real world rather than the virtual one. Rent holidays would incentivise start-ups. Improved transport links would generate more weekend trade. None of these measures alone will restore our high streets to health. But they would surely command the respect of the public, which is more than can be said for the projects carried out in the name of the so-called Queen of Shops.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments