The former boss of New Look, Phil Wrigley, has sounded the death knell of the traditional high street, and described Mary Portas’s review as the “right diagnosis, wrong prescription”.
Wrigley - who in his time as chief executive doubled the number of New Look stores, many of which are in town centres – believes that high streets would be best used for residential developments rather than shops.
He said the traditional high street model is “almost completely moribund” and warned: “It is irrelevant to the needs of shoppers today, let alone tomorrow”.
In a speech at Oxford University, Wrigley, now chairman of Majestic Wine, said parking fees, out-of-town centres and the growth of online meant traditional high streets were in the middle of a “real, genuine and irreversible crisis”.
“I believe passionately in retail and I believe passionately in high streets. I just think their marriage is over and it’s time for them to go their separate ways,” he said.
He maintained: “Unlike Ms Portas, I don’t think we can continue to try to muddle through supporting the traditional high street model.”
He forecast that by 2025 there will be fewer, more dominant retailers with fewer, larger stores on the edge of towns.
Wrigley proposed changing planning laws to make it easier to re-class former retail premises for residential development.