Clare Rayner, Retail expert and writer.
Last week, Simon Danczuk MP led a parliamentary debate on the Government’s support for the high street.
His opening address explored the imbalance in business rates between online-only retail and multichannel, and a need for “digital champions” rather than “high street champions”. With this encouraging introduction I was anticipating a passionate debate on innovation, action, and a way forward. I was sorely disappointed.
It appeared the MPs were totally out of touch with modern retail. The concept of digital champions to help smaller independent retailers embrace all that technology offers, using it as an enabler of consumer engagement, was lost on them.
Most thought indies feared the internet, regarding it as a threat.
Their assumptions, based on second or third-hand information rather than evidence or contact with traders in their own communities, had me tearing my hair out.
It’s clear that until we have a government that understands modern retailing, and more MPs who engage with the local traders in their constituencies (as Danczuk does), we’ll never have meaningful policy to support high street regeneration.
I guess that means it’s up to us to lead the high street evolution - not with the support of government but in spite of it.