At Retail Week Live in March, Government minister Andrew Griffiths took to the stage to announce the creation of a retail industry council. Since then he seems to have gone AWOL.

“It’s time for the retail sector and the Government to work together to understand the issues, and come up with solutions,” he proclaimed back in March. “This is not a talking shop, but a dynamic tool for us to develop policy and innovation.”

However, in what has been a grim week for retail, as department store group House of Fraser unveiled plans to shutter more than half of its estate and value specialist Poundworld collapsed into administration, there has been little talk, never mind action, from Griffiths or his Government colleagues.

And the likely disappearance of so many House of Fraser stores and uncertainty about Poundworld’s future has once again stoked fears about the future of the high street – it’s not very long these days before the phrase ‘ghost town’ pops up in conversations with any retailer operating in town centres.

“Such concerns, and the loss of more than 21,000 jobs this year even before last week’s bleak news, make the silence from ministers astonishing”

Such concerns, and the loss of more than 21,000 jobs this year even before last week’s bleak news, make the silence from ministers astonishing.

There was an opposition day debate on retail earlier this month, but it seems that the practicalities and internal party politics of Brexit mean the normal business of government is on the back burner. So retailers shouldn’t expect much central government policy assistance as they adapt to new circumstances.

The task of reinventing the high street retail and reinvigorating town centres will fall to the retail industry and other interested parties.

In retrospect, there was more sense and good ideas in the high street reviews conducted by Mary Portas and Bill Grimsey than was given credit for at the time. Grimsey is revisiting his review and perhaps his findings will help retailers and local authorities navigate ongoing change.

A new landlord/tenant relationship

New ways of doing business will certainly need to be found. In that respect the idea, understood to be being advocated by some of House of Fraser’s landlords, of receiving equity in return for support for the retailer’s CVA is interesting.

It would represent a different sort of partnership between landlords and retail occupiers, each having a stake in the health of stores and their financial success. And if success were achieved, the continued presence of House of Fraser in some town centres at least would benefit the trading environment for others.

“While online players may face a greater tax burden, the fundamental problem of an outdated and unfair business rates regime will go unaddressed”

The Sun reported last weekend that a new high street review is being proposed by Communities Minister Jake Berry.

But the newspaper said, “critically it is not expected to pave the way for a review of sky high business rates because of demands from the Chancellor”, although it could lead to a turnover tax on online giants such as Amazon.

That pretty much tells you all you need to know. While online players may face a greater tax burden, the fundamental problem of an outdated and unfair business rates regime will go unaddressed.

High street retailers must, as they have done in the past, rely on self-help and be open to new ideas expressed from any friendly quarter.

Opinion: Calling Andrew Griffiths… are you receiving?