But anyone who thinks we are seeing the demise of the high street is wide of the mark, says the article. What is happening is polarisation in every facet of the industry. Top multiples are interested in only about 300 high streets and shopping malls - 80% of the UK's retail spend is concentrated in 20% of all available space.
To display wider product ranges, major chains are demanding larger units they cannot get in the smaller high streets. Suburban towns could provide larger units were it not for the fragmented
ownership of high streets shop units. Only when high streets are owned by a single entity can shops be 'knocked through' to provide the larger units.
Dorking in Surrey is one town that has thrived in its secondary role. Although it has a relatively wealthy commuter population and is surrounded by attractive countryside, the town for the past
few years has seen an exodus of major chains. facing town centre oblivion, Dorking has reinvented itself as a focus for independent traders combined with top class restaurants.
'Dorking realised three or four years ago that retail polarisation was happening', said town manager Simon Matthews. 'What we did was to flip the whole thing around. We have a traditional linear high street, with 300 small units. Most majors wanted big units. We decided to
go for the independents, and now 80% of our shops are run by them. We've got wine merchants and thriving restaurants here'.
Mr Matthews concedes that his job would be tougher if he had to manage a less prosperous town, but maintains it is not impossible to revive town centre high streets. 'You have to create a brand and play up all your advantages', he said.