Retail is fundamentally a simple business. Buy products for one price and sell them for a higher one, sufficient to cover your costs and make a profit. And because it’s simple, retailers have just got on with it. If they’ve run into difficulty, they’ve sorted it out.
But the pace of change in the retail world means a new approach is needed. High street retail needs help, and retailers can’t do it alone - they need central, and particularly local, government to play their part in reviving the sector.
The collapse of Woolworths alone left gaps on more than 800 streets, many of them secondary and tertiary parades. And while the best Woolies stores have been snapped up, many remain empty.
At Retail Week we devised our Manifesto for the High Street to highlight the challenges facing the high street retail sector. It is coming up against unprecedented competition, not just from out-of-town stores but also the internet. Because shoppers can now buy almost anything from the sofa, local shopping areas need to be inviting places where people want to go.
For councils, it makes sense to work with retailers. Run-down shopping areas are the most visible sign of an area’s economic decline. Small steps - such as running events in a shopping street, or making parking cheaper or easier - can make a big difference.
These long-term trends aren’t going to go away. They’re going to accelerate. The pressure is on everyone involved in our shopping streets to consider what they’re doing to give them a sustainable future.
Tim Danaher, editor, Retail Week