Whilst Mary Portas is commissioned by No.10 to ponder over what it is that makes our Towns vibrant, economically active and productive trading centres some of us are out their actually helping to address the issues that will undoubtedly surface in Mary’s report.
It did not seem that long ago that there were complaints about the number of Estate Agents entering the High Street, now we are seeing planners allowing change of use from retail to the professional services sector providing an increasing level of High Street presence for Accountants, Solicitors, Financial Advisors etc. Many do not fit well in a retail environment and can dramatically alter the perception of what a town has to offer.
Many of the more locally based Charity Shops within the 9,000 estimated to be operating nationally are now feeling the squeeze as the slick national brands divert opportunity away from the smaller operators. Now there is not is there just competition for business but competition for donated stock as well.
Having advised many hundreds of retail/high street businesses, and visited both vibrant and far less than vibrant towns across the Country in the course of my work I have developed an understanding of what makes some towns work more effectively than others, what makes some of our High Streets full of life and , unfortunately, what can lead to their demise.
I will be presenting the first of my overviews of what makes a town vibrant at the Cheshire East Sustainable Towns Forum on 1st November and am in the process of writing an article for a national trade magazine on the same issue.