Senior representatives from retail, banking, property and local government have come together to create a new taskforce that has been set up following recommendations made in the Portas Review to revive high streets.
The Distressed Retail Property Taskforce will aim to find ways of rejuvenating towns and cities. It is undertaking a review to identify “through empirical research the property-related barriers to the vitality and performance of town centres”, the taskforce said in a statement.
The findings from the research are aimed at “providing clear evidence and options on property-related issues that allow both central and local government to make informed decisions over priorities relating to the impact and vitality of town centres”.
It will also “help the industry itself respond effectively to current and future challenges”.
The taskforce brings together public and private sectors, across professional bodies and trade associations including British Retail Consortium (BRC), British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), British Property Federation (BPF), Local Government Association (LGA), and The Booksellers Association.
There are also representatives from institutions including Javelin Group, Legal and General Property, Lloyds Banking Group, and Royal Bank of Scotland.
Mark Williams, Distressed Retail Property Taskforce chairman and partner at asset managers, Hark Group, said: “The Taskforce recognises that our high streets are going through a structural recalibration, rather than an economic cycle from which we will emerge over time.
“The wider economic, consumer and retail markets have moved at a pace that our high streets, and property in general, have not been fast enough to adapt. The reasons for this need careful examination as a way of understanding what the current property-related barriers to rejuvenation are, and what the range of options or solutions could be.
“Critically, the Prime Minister has pushed the plight of the high street high up the political agenda. This research will provide hard evidence to allow tough choices over priorities to be made. Mary Portas’ enthusiasm, profile and energy will ensure that the topic remains a high priority by the time we report.”
Mark Prisk MP, minister for town centres, high streets and markets, said: “I’m pleased that this wide range of industry experts are coming together to examine how best to help reinvigorate the country’s town centres.
“No two towns will face the same challenges or require the same solutions but this work, led by the British Council of Shopping Centres, will give them an insight into what makes a town centre tick, and entices communities to support it.
“I look forward to seeing the conclusions that the group reaches, and how our network of over 300 Town Team Partners and 27 Portas Pilots across the country can use their findings to breathe new life into their high streets.”
The formation of the taskforce comes as a new report found that high streets will become “little more than showrooms” because of the growth in online shopping.
The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that online shopping will account for at least a third of UK retail sales by 2022, up from 13% now.
“The ease of online shopping means the showroom function of bricks-and-mortar shops will become more focused on establishing brand visibility and a reputation for service than on generating in-store sales,” said the report.