The towns revamped under Mary Portas’ ‘Save the High Street’ campaign have lost almost 1,000 shops in just five years, new data has revealed.
The Government-backed programme shared a £1.2m kitty between 12 towns across the UK in a bid to transform them into retail hubs, with support from Portas and a number of MPs.
But according to new figures from the Local Data Company (LDC), shared with the BBC and The Telegraph, the locations have lost almost one in five shops since the scheme launched in 2012.
The towns – Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Greater Bedminster, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Nelson, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees and Wolverhampton – have collectively suffered a net loss of 969 retail units during that five-year period.
The 17% drop is the equivalent of one store closure every 22 days, LDC said.
‘Real policy change’ needed
Despite the Government investment, the rate of decline is broadly the same rate as the rest of the country.
So-called ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas accused the Government of using her campaign as a PR exercise, claiming it created the impression that efforts were being made to revive high streets, when no policies had actually been created.
Portas also called on Chancellor Phillip Hammond to implement “real policy change” as retailers face into growing business rates bills.
She told The Telegraph: “It feels like there was this great splash from Government, that they were getting behind businesses. But they can’t say that and then treble rates – they need to think about the effects on business.
“We need real policy change. Business needs to be at the heart of planning as the Government decides what kind of country we want to live in because the high street is the heart of every community.
“With rising wages and increased import costs, rates is the one area that can be sorted out by Government.”