A high street that adjusts prices to customer’s moods and enables them to shop through holograms is just “around the corner” according to the Grimsey Review.
The long-awaited alternative review of the high street, led by former Focus boss Bill Grimsey, which is published today, aims to create digitally joined up town centres that are operated as businesses.
The review suggests that the UK develops networked high streets, which connect residents with businesses and services on the high street, as well as local authorities via cloud-based tools powered by Wi-Fi.
The Grimsey Review believes that by using Big Data technology residents can use a loyalty card service linked to their mobile phones. This could show real time information across the town centre on car parking spaces and booking appointments.
Pricing and promotions would change dependent on how quiet trade is that day, while face recognition could allow local stores to offer a discount on a bar of chocolate to cheer shoppers up.
In addition, the Grimsey Review predicts the future high street will feature stockless stores and would mean customers could browse products though virtual fashion shows and holograms.
Grimsey said: “This high street is around the corner. These things will begin emerging in the next five years, so we need to start preparing for it now.”
In addition the report suggests that agricultural land and buildings should be made subject to the business rates tax from which it is currently exempt.
Business rates are a considerable concern for retailers. Rates have surged in the past three years, adding more than £500m to retailers’ business rates bills. This has restricted investment and growth in the sector.
It comes on top of recommendations to reinstate the 2015 rates revaluation, which has been delayed to 2017 by the Government. It is also calling for an annual valuation of commercial properties after 2017, rather than the current five-year cycle.
Grimsey, who is also calling for retailers to invest in a fund to help set up the Town Centre Commissions, said: “I’m calling upon the industry to recognise they have had 25 years of boom and in town centres and they needs to be restructured as community hubs and we need funding to get this community approach out there.”
He said that he didn’t expect retailers to agree to the levy, which asks them to contribute a one-off payment of 0.25% of their sales in 2014, but said: “If I can get one or two big guys it might come off.”
Grimsey said that he will work to get “as much of it [the review] adopted as I can” as he aims to lobby each of the political parties across their conferences in the following months, while next week he will begin to lobby retailers.
Responding to the review CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: “High streets are suffering from a lack of strategic vision, so a business plan for each town centre is a good idea – giving businesses the opportunity to work alongside local authorities to breathe new life into our town centres.”
Hall also welcomed action on business rates but regarding the levy she said: “A one-off money-grab on larger retailers would undermine investment and job creation.”
Meanwhile, the British Property Federation is backing the report’s call for a “root and branch” review of business rates, as it calculated that the UK pays the highest business rates of any country in the EU.
BPF chief executive Liz Peace said: “The Government makes a great play of claiming that it wants to create an internationally competitive tax system while at the same time hamstringing the nation’s businesses with the highest rates bills in Europe – bills that are ratcheted up with inflation each year regardless of wider economic conditions.”