The Government has drafted in TV presenter Mary Portas to lead a review of the future of high street.
The controversial personality, famous for programmes such as Mary, queen of shops, will help “identify what government, local authorities and businesses can do to promote the development of more prosperous and diverse high streets.”
The project is part of the Government’s Growth Review, designed to promote economic growth “that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries”.
Prime minister David Cameron said: “The high street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment so it is vital that we do all we can to ensure they thrive.
He said he was confident that Portas’s “no nonsense approach will help us to create vibrant and diverse town centres”.
Portas said: “With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker”.
She will address issues such the problem of vacant shops and so-called clone-towns, look at “new business models for the high street that fit the needs of the modern shopper” and consider how to increase the number of small and independent retailers operating in local town centres.
The BRC welcomed the appointment but cautioned: “Independents are a vital part of an attractive retail mix but so are the big names. Ultimately it’s customers who have the power in retailing through the shopping choices they make. This review should not seek to restrict that choice by making life harder for any particular category of retailers.”