New High Street panel faces immense challenge, ParcelHero
A panel of eight experts has been appointed by High Streets Minister Jake Berry to diagnose issues that currently affect the health of our High Streets and advise on the best practical measures to help them thrive. But it could be a case of too little, too late, according to parcel delivery comparison site ParcelHero.
The company’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks, says: “To be brutally honest, the diagnosis is already clear, and it’s terminal unless the Government and retailers act swiftly. Our latest research suggests that by 2030 over 40% of all retail sales will be online and up to half of our existing High Street stores will have closed. The High Street is sinking fast from the perfect storm of home shopping and ruinous business rates that retailers have been screaming in protest against for some years.”
Launching the panel, Berry commented: “Our future High Streets may well feature more homes, childcare centres and gyms to bring people back and ensure that they keep returning.” But this isn’t even going to be sticking plaster over the empty shop windows on our town centres, argues Jinks.
“We agree about the need for more city centre homes,” he adds. “Our 2017 report, 2030 The Death of the High Street, urgently called for more homes in our towns and cities – but also stated the Government needed to take bold steps to enable empty commercial city centre buildings to have a change of use to residential dwellings, to ensure life returns to our dead city centres after 9pm. So far these regulations remain unchanged.”
High Street stores must offer a great shopping experience, and more product expertise. Business rates need to be slashed. Most of all, a clicks and mortar approach to retail is urgently needed by stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser. “Astonishingly their web pages still link to other retailers’ ‘white label’ sites for large items such as furniture or large electrical goods. Such clunky unintegrated sites have no place in 21st century retail,” says Jinks.
He concludes: “Many of the biggest names on the High Street have to get to grips with a combined multiplatform approach to sales: or join the ranks of BHS and Toys R’ Us. It looks a talented panel, Sir John Timpson is to chair, and we’re hoping for weightier ideas than gyms from it.”