A consortium of high street and retail experts, backed by Rakuten’s Play.com, is aiming to launch an online presence for 200 high streets.

Target200 will ensure that for the first time towns will be able to showcase their wares online, and shoppers will be able to use click-and-collect and receive promotions through a loyalty programme. The initiative is designed to enable local high streets to take on retail giants including Amazon and Tesco.

It is also backed by high street website developer MyHigh.St, the British Independent Retailers Association, Action for Market Towns and the Association of Town and City Management.

Rakuten’s Play.com managing director Shingo Murakami: “We have built a global business by harnessing the power of the internet to help smaller businesses compete and grow; whilst protecting their individuality and their brands.  

“With 40,000 online retailers in Japan alone we know that this approach delivers for retailers and consumers alike.  We are committed as part of our growth in the UK to providing an alternative to the traditional product driven approach of the established e-commerce players and to bringing MyHigh’s independent retailers to our 16 million UK customers.”

MyHigh.St co-founder Loaye Agabani said: “The collapse of our high streets will have deep repercussions on communities across the UK. Britain’s High Streets are not just a collection of shops. They are the beating heart of our towns and cities.”

Today target200 has launched a report entitled A Nation of Shopkeepers, which examines how to breathe new life into the high street.

It will be formally launched at a parliamentary reception in Westminster, set to be attended by high street minister Brandon Lewis.

Findings show a third of people believe that the staff in chain stores are often unfriendly, and that there is overcrowding on the shop floor and over half of people (56%) think there is not enough choice on the High Street.

Agabani: “After numerous reviews, reports and pilots programmes, it’s time for action. Our website empowers independent retailers to fight back against the rise of online shopping from faceless warehouses, showing them that the internet, when used effectively, can boost their business and get money flowing back into their tills.”