If the Portas review were a high street it would look quite familiar – a cheek by jowl mix alternately appealing or a turn-off.

If the Portas review were a high street it would look quite familiar – a cheek by jowl mix alternately appealing or a turn-off.

First, one of Portas’s 28 recommendations that stands out as a bad one – the suggestion that an ‘exceptional sign-off’ be necessary for new out-of-town schemes.

Such developments have taken off because they click with consumer demand. The proposal to further restrict them flies in the face of reality and would be punitive rather than a proactive way of enhancing town centres.

That said, there were good ideas in the Portas review.

To her credit, she resisted setting out her arguments in ‘big is bad, small is beautiful’ terms.

She also took a gimlet-eyed view of high street reality and avoided nostalgic pleas for a return to a rose-tinted past of butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers. She acknowledged that the high street has been transformed not just by consumer habits and the rise of the grocers, but by the failure of some town centre traders to keep up with shopper expectations and the popularity of online retail.

Perhaps her strongest idea is the creation of ‘town teams’ including local authority and business representatives to take a strategic approach to improving high streets.

That’s something that is already being done in places, with the enthusiastic support of some of the biggest retailers and evidenced for instance by the improvements made to London’s West End following the creation of a business improvement district.

Such initiatives show that big retailers are among the high street’s strongest advocates. The high streets of the future will be very different from today’s, and will have fewer shops, but leading retailers will play a positive role in their reinvention and many will remain important trading locations in a bricks-and-clicks world.

Christmas cheer

After a torrid 2011, the final week of Christmas trading is upon us and there remains plenty to play for.

It won’t be surprising if there are further business failures over the next few days and the trend of the last few years will continue – the strongest will survive and some will thrive.

As the tills ring, doubtless a little more slowly than in the fat years, retail chiefs can toast navigating stormy waters.

If you’ve got through this year, you can look forward with some confidence to next. Surely it can’t be worse?

Multichannel Now

While Mary Portas offers a bricks and mortar approach to reviving the high street, the new Multichannel Now report reveals where your customers are going, and what your competitors are doing about it.

Discover the future of retail today: