But it must overcome several hurdles
New Look chief executive Phil Wrigley said he believes the high street has potentially a very successful future, despite mounting threats from the internet, supermarkets, foreign competition and too much retail space coming onto the high street.

Speaking at the Retail Week Conference, Wrigley said: 'We need to give some thought to how to get true emotional engagement with their customers. Shopping is an emotional rather than fundamental activity.'

New space coming onto the market over the next five years is expected to be much greater than the previous five; 'a recipe for negative like-for-like sales', said Wrigley.

Online sales have leaped from 1 per cent in 2001 to 10 per cent in 2006 - some 25 million people now shop online. By 2010, it is forecast that 80 per cent of shoppers will buy both online and on the high street.

Wrigley said higher rents, average selling price deflation and wage inflation is hitting the high street hard. Adding that clothing retailers are having to fight harder than ever for their slice of the family spend, as people devote a greater proportion of their salaries on travel, utilities and leisure.

The high street had been energised by overseas entrants. 'The arrival of Inidtex was a shot in the arm for us,' said Wrigley.

However, he said that shopping centres such as the Bullring in Birmingham and Oracle Centre in Reading had been successful after adopting many of the most attractive, engaging elements of the high street and had rejuvenated town centres as a whole.

He added that collaboration between developers, architects, retailers, local government and marketers was the key to making the high street relevant to consumers.

Despite joking at the beginning of the session that he was pleased not to be sitting on the private equity panel session at the Conference yesterday afternoon, Wrigley said the debate was 'welcomed' and 'people want to understand it and see how it fits in the marketplace'.