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Community spirit can fuel high street revival

The recent Portas Review has drawn a wide range of suggestions as to what needs to be done to save our ailing high streets.

The recent Portas Review has drawn a wide range of suggestions as to what needs to be done to save our ailing high streets. Some people, such as former New Look boss Phil Wrigley, have gone so far as to say they are dying and should be replaced with housing.

Proposals need to be more holistic. Surely the role of a great high street, with a mix of the best retailers, restaurants and attractions, is to be a location destination, driven by a thriving local community with its own economy. While consumer need for convenience is served well by out-of-town centres and the internet, the high street seems to have lost its raison d’être. Shopping for pleasure and experience, however, is still something consumers love to do.

We opened the Mulberry factory shop at Kilver Court in a downtrodden Shepton Mallet some 15 years ago, where one in four shops is now closed and a Tesco superstore dominates the top of the high street.

The business aims to encourage interaction from brands as well as customers who would otherwise shop elsewhere or not visit the area. This brings 150,000 visitors a year, which in turn should benefit the high street, boosting tourism and employment. To convert a high street without focusing on building a thriving residential and retail community would be very difficult.

In nearby Frome, the launch of Babington House helped kickstart a metropolitan revival of the town, bringing in new residents and businesses and generating jobs. Six months ago we opened the first stage of the Kilver Court Designer outlet. Gardens and old textile mills were rejuvenated to become a designer fashion outlet, with speciality local and seasonal food. We feel this will help do the same for Shepton Mallet.

The catalyst for regeneration comes through people wishing to live in the area. It’s then the rest will follow.

  • Roger Saul is an entrepreneur and founder of Mulberry

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