The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) are urging retailers to work together to put pressure on local authorities to save declining high streets.
The BRC published a report this week called 21st Century High Streets, which underlined the challenges facing high streets across the UK, including lack of retail diversity and increasing numbers of vacant units. It also included case studies of initiatives involving independent retailers in towns which have already successfully boosted business.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said he would put pressure on the government to support businesses and high streets in the downturn, but that retailers had to play their part too. He said: “Retailers have to work with each other and in partnership with local authorities and other stakeholders in town centres to make sure everything is being done to provide vibrant town centres and high streets.”
BSSA chief executive John Dean added: “Retailers have to get together and talk to each other to find out what they need, then approach the chamber of commerce, the local authority, and town centre manager if there is one. Involve landlords too. We will support the BRC in making government aware of the social importance of the high street.”
The BRC report’s case studies include Swansea, south Wales, which holds an annual Independents Day event where independent retailers pro-mote their businesses with catwalks and entertainment in the city centre. The initiative is run by the Swansea Business Improvement District (SBID), which is funded by local businesses to promote their local economy.
Lindsay Jones, owner of Little Nation, a designer kidswear store in Swansea, said the event had been a big benefit to local businesses. “On the day of the event and the following week, sales were up,” she said.
Local businessman Dave Kenny, chairman of SBID, said: “I would encourage any groups of independents to get together and try to develop a BID. You could get the local councillor onside and talk to the Association of Town Centre Management and British BIDs, who will provide guidance for free. But business should get together, pool some money and make a business plan to do what isn’t being done. I think it’s more important than ever now.”