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‘The high street needs young blood now more than ever’

A few years back, five college roommates sat around a table and discussed their dreams for the future. One dream was to open a boutique selling clothes from around the world.

A few years later, Erica Kiang opened Babel Fair in Manhattan, where she sells everything from Japanese denim to Argentinian leather and is living her dream.

The question is, how many young people in the UK are doing the same?

New initiatives such as Retail Ready People, which takes 16 to 25-year-olds on skills development programmes to help them set up a shop in their area, can help develop these dreams.

But we need to go much further in developing stronger retail mentoring networks. One encouraging sign during the recession has been the support offered to young people by some local authorities to set up pop-up shops. But we need to marry this with strong mentoring projects to give these businesses a chance of becoming permanent.

I’m astonished that a sector which provides 40% of employment to all under-20s isn’t doing more to help young people. At a time when the high street is facing so many challenges, young blood is needed more than ever.

  • Paul Turner-Mitchell, Co-owner of Rochdale young fashion indie 25 Ten Boutique

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