Online or On the High Street. It’s not a war – it should be about working together

One again the High Street has come under fire.  Shortly after the news that HMV, Blockbusters and Jessops have slipped into administration has come the announcement from Mark Prisk – the local growth minister “that our high streets will need to change to prosper”.

As long as I can remember, the High Street has been ‘under attack’.  The introduction of online shops and the 4 year economic down turn has accelerated this.  With no signs of a changing economy, despite the New Bank of England’s Governor my worry, a view supported by KPMG’s Head of Retail in the UK, is that belt tightening will still be the order of the day.

One of the recently announced issues that the Future of High Street Forum will look at is; “Making it easier for empty spaces to be filled by pop-up shops”.  On paper this sounds a good idea,

Some of the pop-up shops I have seen look terrific.  They have an edgy look and feel and the products may be unique and unavailable elsewhere.

Others on the other hand are cheap looking and unappealing. I worry that pop up shops are not a big enough pull.

Also up for discussion is converting yet more of our space into residential property.  I really think this should be considered with care. Our High Street includes a variety of businesses from shop, café’s bars and restaurants.  Residential properties will indeed increase footfall with town centers, but is it the needed footfall that spends?

Furthermore, I read a report from the retail think tank, which discussed incorporating online into the retail process.  This will work for the big brands but for the smaller independents this is simply cost s prohibitive,

My view is that a blueprint for success will include a healthy mixture of anchor stores such as the major high street chains and lots of independents.  Transport and rates need to be part of the discussion.

It’s clear that no-one wants the High streets to die. There is a need to try and encourage businesses and shoppers back.

But it shouldn’t be a war between online and on-the-High Street, or car parking, business rates or the weather.  This is a complex issue, not one thing will cure the problem and not one person will have all the answers to be a fruitful discussion nothing should “off-the table”

Wire Fittings has been providing displays stands to independent retails and major high street chains for years.