Retail Week’s Manifesto for the High Street is a campaign to bring retailers and politicians together to turn around the decline of Britain’s struggling high streets.
Manifesto for the High Street
Retail Week’s manifesto is a 10-point plan for how central government, local politicians and retailers can work together to regenerate the UK’s shopping streets. Covering issues from parking to planning, the manifesto will be shaped by the views of Retail Week’s readers, before being sent to the leaders of all three major parties ahead of the general election.
“There’s been a lot of talk about supporting the high street but not a lot of action,” said BRC director-general Stephen Robertson. “That’s why this campaign is central not just to the health of retailers, but to communities too.”
The campaign comes as vacancy rates in secondary towns continue to soar in the wake of the past 18 months’ raft of retail collapses, most notably Woolworths.
According to property agent Colliers CRE, the proportion of empty space shot up from 14.2% to 16.2% in the three months to last October. The past year’s rush of retail collapses has left huge gaps, particularly in secondary town centres.
The Colliers report finds certain town centres have been particularly hard hit. Vacancy rates in Northampton rose from 13% to 15.7%, while Ilford in Essex experienced a jump from 12.1% to 17.7%But the rising profile of the problems facing high streets means there is no better time for retailers to demand more help from politicians. This week the campaign secured an early victory when toy group The Entertainer persuaded some councils that had previously been refusing to allow it to pay its business rates in 12 instalments rather than the usual 10 to back down.
Most of the 40 councils asked had allowed the change, but a handful had refused and one - Maidstone - this week sent the bailiffs in, according to founder Gary Grant.
Grant claimed that another council - Worcester - only backed down after Retail Week started asking questions this week. “Worcester only agreed to us paying in 12 instalments after you made the call this morning,” he said on Wednesday.