The High Street has been given a helping hand with the announcement that The Association of Town and City Management will be leading the programme to support and develop our High Streets over the next two years. After last weeks disappointment of Business Rates, retailers were knocking at Number 10 for help to deliver growth so that they could pay the rates. We will be following the developments of this closely and offer our no-holds-barred opinion as ever.
This programme will take the budgets allocated off the back of Mary Portas’ report last year and provide the support and mentoring that local towns and retailers need to innovate their High Streets and keep customers coming back. This echoes the concerns we highlighted last week that town councils don’t have the entrepreneurialism and imagination to be able to effectively allocate resources to deliver a destination shopping experience and footfall.
Retailers are being warned to be 4G ready as it is predicted to boost the retail economy by £1.8bn according to ebay. So perhaps one initiative for the High Street could be to follow Wilkos lead and introduce wi-fi to all stores to facilitate the predicted boom in m-commerce. What if fashion retailers’ stores were there as a showroom only and purchases were facilitated through a separate warehouse? It’s a model that some furniture stores have been using for some time. Stockroom space could be made over to social space where shoppers make their purchases and perhaps have a cup of coffee and a chat while they do so. If the High Street wants to be destination for towns then leisure needs will have to be met, and there are probably enough coffee bars already.
Meanwhile we welcome the news that Blockbuster will be staying on the High Street, albeit with about half its estate, after its sale to Gordon brothers and under the new leadership of Gary Warren from HMV. This is very welcome news and we eagerly wait to see how the brand will remodel itself in order to be viable against its digital competition, Lovefilm and Netflix. According to Frank Morton, Chief Executive of Gordon Brothers, there is scope to move Blockbuster towards music and video game sales. Hopefully Gary Warren has learnt the hard way that games and music may not be the perfect business model.
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