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Tony Thomas Director WYG Planning & Environment. Saving our high streets Is Portas the answer?

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Presentation on theme: "Tony Thomas Director WYG Planning & Environment. Saving our high streets Is Portas the answer?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Tony Thomas Director WYG Planning & Environment

2 Saving our high streets Is Portas the answer?

3 ………if the question is…. ‘ Who recently published a well researched, thought provoking, informative and interesting review on the future of our high streets’ ……then yes, the answer most certainly is Mary Portas !

4 Saving our high streets – is Portas the answer? Portas Review (December 2011) - Current problems highlighted - 28 Recommendations made to Government on how to kick start a recovery Portas has raised many important issues, perhaps not in the way she intended; She readily admits this is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach;

5 Key themes….. Crisis point; Social & economic value; Out-of-town – convenient, meeting the needs of consumers – TC’s/HS’s have failed to adapt quickly enough – perhaps failed to adapt at all; What are we trying to save ?

6 High street as we know it is no more….. The new normal: Post-recession consumerism; Post-recession levels of disposable income; Post-recession attitude to risk; Very different consumer landscape; Convenience driven Price sensitive Time Sensitive Environment Sensitive

7 New expectations of the High Street….. What are they? Destination; Mixed activity; Ease of access/parking/public transport; Personal; Leisure; Pleasant environment; Retail ?...really ?

8 ‘People are passionate about High Street’….. Really ? Just not passionate enough to spend time there or spend their money there ! Vacancy rates – 50% increase Consumer expenditure below 50% 25,000 fewer shops on the High Street than 10/12 years ago Protect the weakest – survival of the fittest

9 Nostalgia ? I remember when there was no out-of-town option, there was no internet – if you wanted to buy something you went into the Town Centre, you shopped on the High Street; Was it better ? Was it worse ? Who knows, it was what it was – it was different ? – less choice – no choice, no quick way to compare, little genuine competition – far fewer providers. Evolution of consumer opportunities – not a bad thing – it is what it is – we cannot turn back the clock.

10 Hard Truth’s…. 25p in every pound spent in Tesco £5 in every £10 spent on health and beauty – spent in Morrison's ? Sainsbury's is the 7 th largest clothes retailer by volume These facts and plenty more tell their own story ? Are we really that passionate about the High Street ? Price/time/location/deal/environment sensitive Superstores – dentist/GP/optician/PO/off licence/clothing/white goods/audio & visual/homeware……why would we shop anywhere else ?

11 In–Town Vs Out-Of-Town….. Mary Portas wants to create SOCIAL CAPITAL and economic recovery will follow……….absolutely BUT – what does that economic recover look like ? NEW NORMAL – TC’s/HS’s will not be the same again. Same problems exist – multiple ownerships – lack of…. trust cooperation cohesion common ground LACK OF SYNERGY – out-of-town mall is designed to benefit from exactly this !

12 Consumerism….. We want it all; We want it now; Riots of 2011: Social injustice ? Sense of hopelessness ? Conflict with authority ? NO Greed Opportunity Must have Rebels without a cause !!!

13 Retail Policy….. …..and all of this whilst apparently operating in a ‘presumption in favour of the Town Centre’ system ? …..stable door ?

14 Portas wants to……. Free up constraints Level the playing field Mobilise landlords

15 Mary P’s Recommendations….. 28 recommendations – the highlights; Town Team – sounds like a BBC2 series ? Parking; Deregulate; Incentivise use of vacant units; Powers to redevelop TC sites’; Explicit support for TC emphasis – exceptional sign-off; Community/public involvement – the 4 p’s

16 Government Response (March 2012) - ‘Portas Plus’ Plan - Acceptance of almost all recommendations, but not of the key recommendation i.e. ministerial approval for out of centre retail parks

17 Reaction….. Limited scope to what can be achieved without acceptance of key recommendation - Portas Pilots: 27 now underway - But overall, lack of funds to make serious difference (with a rise in business rates simultaneously putting pressure on most retailers) - Single biggest success so far: raising the profile of the high street and opening up debate

18 The Critic….. - Bill Grimsey, the former chief executive of the defunct DIY chain Focus, has said the high street is "as good as dead already" and lambasted the review of sector by the retail expert Mary Portas as "all a waste of money and resources". - In his book ‘Sold Out’, the retail veteran says the policy failures of successive Governments, the "toxic" leverage of private equity deals, unrealistic retail landlords and online shopping have contributed to the "terminal disease" that is afflicting many local shopping environments. Instead of trying to revive existing town centres with more shops, the former Wickes, Iceland Foods and Focus executive says Government and local authorities should concentrate on initiatives that lead to more "restaurants, cafés, pedestrianised meeting areas, art galleries or advice centres". He adds: "We cannot 'save' the high street, Tragic though it is.“

19 An unexpected critic….. - Portas herself has now questioned Government’s commitment. Portas added that the Government must act on issues such as car parking and cut red tape if it is to tackle the health of high streets seriously. However she did not think saving the high streets was a “major priority” for the Government. - Mark Prisk, Housing Minister – claims progress in the 27 Portas Pilots

20 The future….. Key problems remaining / to be addressed: - high streets are often highly restricted, expensive places to trade from, and to visit - changing consumer habits - competition (internet, out of centre retailing)

21 Saving our high streets – is Portas the answer? Key Criteria for the 21st Century Town Centre - consumer focused - ‘convenience’ orientated - service orientated - interconnectedness with the multi-channel world e.g. complement the digital world - play a complementary role to the out of centre and internet retailing options which are here to stay…..but how ? - have a true mix of uses to create destinations where people enjoy spending time

22 Saving our high streets – is Portas the answer? To steal a phrase….. Is Portas the answer…… You Decide ! Or perhaps we can decide during this session.


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