The high street is struggling, consumers are shunning the shops. In our ever changing competitive retail landscape why are we unwittingly killing off household brands? The answer to why are our high streets dying is not a simple one, there is no single factor that is causing it.
In town parking is often cited as a reason for the rescued footfall these shops vitally need. The reality is parking is only part of the footfall problem. Councils are putting up parking charges in order to meet green targets and raise funds but are failing to offer an alternative. Park and ride services aren’t being expanded to compensate, rail and bus routes aren’t improving in tandem. You can not simply restrict one thing without offering alternatives and not expect consequences.
High streets are overly expensive. Landlords have gotten use to ever growing rental values for commercial property in prime locations. As shops struggle these units will empty or CVA’s will be required. Simple market forces will eventually pull these rents down, but there is always a delay. With pressure from the treasury to find funds, councils are increasingly looking to rely on business rates. With central government setting these rates local stores are put out of business by inflated property values. Resulting in a two fold problem.
Increases in minimum wage have put a burden on retail, catering and pubs. In order to fund these wage increases many have had to cut back on perks. It is very important to not under estimate the effects caused by the rate at which you increase minimum wage. Large rapid increases will result in huge job losses and business not being able to plan. Which is why Labour proposals are so very short sighted. But even the increases we have seen are causing a tightening of the belt for many business.
With small businesses now being required to offer pensions and contribute, there is simply less to go around. The introduction of the pension requirements have for many high street and smaller business been in affect a state mandated 3% pay rise for employees. Whilst they may not see that money in their account it is theirs and therefore a cost to the business.
The internet is possibly the popularly mentioned reason. The high street must focus on what it offers that online can not, the experience, service, or the ability to touch and get a feeling for the goods. Inevitably some retail will go online, and there will not be enough to grow the high street. In many cases there will not be enough to sustain it.
The high street needs to shrink. Many towns and cities have grown sprawling high streets much of which needs to be reigned in. Towns and cities need to be focused around a core with a strategic plan from the council. What is left needs to be repurposed. Too often this repurposing is for retirement housing. We need to focus on building affordable housing for everyone, especially young professionals. Compact central flats in converted high streets are ideal for many young professional. It is these young professional who are able to regularly use the services of a high street.