Resuscitating Streets

Reading about the latest attempt to resuscitate Britain’s high streets by the Distressed Retail Property Taskforce fills one with feelings of deva-vu. This time last year, Mary Portas was trying to do the same, but the cost of living has continued to rise in that time and shoppers will continue to shop online because it is convenient. These campaigns seek to address one side of the problem – if the shoppers had more money to spend, they probably would.

So it’s not looking good for the high street, but the UK has to accept that the business model of the last 50 years has changed. Consumers will vote with their feet and retailers might choose to move exclusively online to save the physical overheads incurred through owning or renting premises.

There have been calls for all out of town planning applications to automatically go through ministers, but why should a business forego an excellent opportunity to get shoehorned into a unit that might not be the right size or dynamic for its operation?

You can’t halt change, but there is opportunity there.

There’s a housing crisis for a start. Could there be opportunities by converting shops into residential accommodation? That way the banks and landlords won’t have to write off huge debt (they could even make money), green belt will be saved, construction given a boost and the social housing problem addressed in a small way.

In the meantime, those existing businesses that rely on disposable income, like shops, restaurants and pubs who find it tricky to secure funding from banks would be ideal candidates for crowdfunding.

If owners apply and meet’s criteria, they’re in a fantastic place to secure investment from their local community which will then guarantee a group of local stakeholders, people whose repayment will depend on the performance of the business so will be more likely to increase the footfall to their investment.

It’s a solution that creates added value for everyone – successful businesses on the high street, funding for growth, better returns on investment and increased awareness of a business to its target market.

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