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Entertainment tops the bill for shoppers

Paul Turner-Mitchell

Announcements from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) aren’t known for grabbing the interest of fashion retailers.

Announcements from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) aren’t known for grabbing the interest of fashion retailers. But with the high street posting its worst sales in two years, footfall statistics hitting a three-year low and consumer confidence sinking faster than the Titanic, any port looks good in a storm.

Last month’s call by the IMF for Europe to abandon fiscal austerity and switch to stimulus measures ought to be an opportunity for retailers to fight our corner.

With consumers’ spending power withering away in the face of rising bills, job insecurity and stubbornly high inflation, retailers need help. Reduced business rates, more free parking and a creativity fund for events and marketing initiatives to encourage people back into town centres would be a good start.

Here in the Northwest I’ve seen how high street entertainment can give retailers a major fillip. After the Manchester riots the council’s response in organising street parties, concerts, theatre and dance has helped get the city back on its feet. However, it highlights an uncomfortable truth. Once the opiate of the masses, high street retail therapy now needs an extra ingredient to regain its allure and compete with online retailing. Some have argued that this missing ingredient is retail-tainment – using entertainment to get customers in the mood to buy.

Signs from the US, with successful retailers making their businesses more like showrooms and nightclubs than shops, suggest this could be an emerging trend.

Getting the right ambience and mood on the high street is certainly critical. That’s why local authorities can play a big role in putting on events to attract people into shopping areas. With government support this could help bring back the buzz and make all the difference.

  • Paul Turner-Mitchell is director of young fashion indie 25 Ten Boutique in Rochdale

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