A new report suggests the UK high street risks being left in the digital slow lane, causing many retailers to urge the government to invest in technology to enable it to compete better with online.
A five year plan has been set out by the Digital High Street Advisory Board, made up of large retailers such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Tesco, which includes four initiatives to be implemented across the UK’s 1,200 towns by 2020.
These include improving connectivity in town centres, a programme to eliminate the gap in basic digital skills small businesses and charities, a ‘High Street Digital Lab’ to provide town-specific skills training and establishing the first UK ‘High Street Digital Health Index’ to assess changes in towns digital health.
The Digital High Street Advisory Board was formed by the government in April 2014. At the time, its chairman, John Walden, chief executive of Home Retail Group said: “There are a number of digital-related high street initiatives, both in the public sector and private sector, but there is often little, if any, linkage between them.”
In the most recent report he added: “Indeed, the digital revolution is arguably the most disruptive factor affecting our communities, but its effects are not often considered central to high street revitalisation. Many members of UK town centres are struggling to keep up with consumers in terms of their digital capabilities, and given the pace of digital growth many towns lack sufficient infrastructure and basic digital skills.”
High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “High streets contribute billions of pounds to the economy and we know digital is the way forward so it is vitally important traders and town centres keep up with the way people shop if they are to continue to thrive.”