There was a report out last week saying that more and more retailers are deserting the high street for retail parks. More shops are closing and are either left derelict or replaced by charity shops, pawn brokers, betting shops and pop up pound shops.
Mary Portas has been tasked to come up with ideas to save the local high street but I just don't think there's much hope for some towns with such short sighted councils. Local councils are their own worst enemy, using car parks as revenue collectors rather than a way to encourage shoppers in to town to boost the local economy. I was in Buxton on Sunday, my nearest local town, and it was in such a sorry state - two more large shops had closed down leaving the place looking half empty, and several were just closed for the day including big chain names like Boots. Having paid for my parking earlier I got back to my car to find I'd been issued with a penalty for not displaying my ticket, which had slipped off the window due to condensation. It was too late according to the ticket inspector to rescind the ticket and I now have to appeal. All this hassle to park in a dismal half derelict shopping area on a Sunday....when I could just go to a shopping centre, all under cover with a choice of open shops and free parking....or drive out to a retail park...like everyone else does. I'd rather support my local town but this kind of thing really does put shoppers off.
Councils need to support the high street, offer free parking and better public transport and help get local economies moving. Encourage people to spend and support independent retailers, keep the demand for high street chains to stay on the High Street, and safeguard local jobs. The money it costs to have ticket issuers pounding the streets could be better spent offering free parking Sundays - shuttle buses and investment in window displays for empty shops, trader licences for food and craft stalls, street entertainment and buskers to liven up the weekends. In some towns residents have free parking schemes to encourage local people to shop locally.
The competition from online shopping and convenience supermarkets is fierce, with an estimated 14 shops a day closing we should be doing everything we can to save our town centres and high streets, not prohibit it with draconian penalties for heading in to town to do a little shopping. Business rates are set to increase again this year, further marginalising independent retailers and putting pressure on cash flow for larger chains.
Is it too late for our high streets? Let's see what the government offers in way of support for retailers in the budget this March 21st following Mary's report!