Bill Grimsey is to lead an “alternative review” into the high street after claiming retail guru Mary Portas gave sector “false hope”.
Former Focus DIY and Iceland chief executive Grimsey is to work alongside a team of retail experts to deliver a review, which has been endorsed by Asda chief executive Andy Clarke, to the three main political parties in the autumn.
The former Wickes boss said his review will be a “complete solution” to the high street’s ills studying health centres, education, housing and leisure after the growth of out of town and online retail have pushed up the vacancy rate on the high street.
The review, for which Grimsey is not being paid, will primarily focus on proposals to reform the business rate system as well as planning, access to finance and local Government.
His team includes Company Watch’s Nick Hood, retail commentator Paul Turner-Mitchell and London Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson.
He said: “Retailing has to be part of the solution but not the main driver. With the growth of online and mobile sales, as well as the big out-of-town mall culture, it is futile to start with the premise that retail will remain the dominant force on high streets, because it won’t.”
Richard Hyman, president of consultancy PatelMiller, has lent his support to the campaign. He said: “The high street is facing deep structural change of the kind we’ve not seen in a generation.
“Policy makers have yet to get to grips with this and there’s a pressing need for retail industry voices, like Bill Grimsey, to help ministers understand what needs to be done to give high streets a chance of survival.”
Grimsey, who clashed publicly with Portas at Retail Week Live in March accused the TV presenter of “trying to keep a failed model on a life support machine”.
Portas made 27 recommendations to Government to improve the state of UK high streets last year and has been trialling various tactics across 24 pilot towns.
Portas told The Independent: “If Bill Grimsey reads my report properly, he will see that I talk about a new business model that is required for the high street. It is about a multi-functional high street across learning, health and well-being, housing and some retail.
“It is not a failed model. What the Portas Pilots have done is to put this on the public’s agenda to make people think about the importance of their high street and to trial new ideas. And I am proud of what has been achieved by the British public.”
Asda chief executive Andy Clarke added: “There does need to be a wider debate about the future of the high street and Bill Grimsey is well positioned to lead this.”