Drapers is launching its own investigation into issues affecting the UK’s high streets to ensure the views of the fashion retail sector are heard by the Government.
Following the announcement this month that Prime Minister David Cameron had appointed retail guru Mary Portas to tackle this thorny issue, Drapers has been inundated with emails from readers giving their take on the problems. So we are asking readers from across the sector to take part in a survey aimed at pinpointing the key issues for businesses and coming up with workable solutions.
Portas has been keen to stress that she is seeking solutions that work across the retail spectrum, from small independents to large multiples, so Drapers will be canvassing opinion from across its hugely diverse readership.
To take part in the survey, log on to drapersonline.com/highstreetsurvey. The more detailed the information you give us the better. If you would like to tell us more about your experiences, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The results of the survey and any emails I receive will be published in forthcoming issues of Drapers and passed to Mary Portas for her consideration when she is drawing up her proposals for the Government.
Complete our high street survey at drapersonline.com/highstreetsurvey
The future of the high street: some of our readers’ views
Rebecca Gray, founder of fair-trade fashion and homewares indie Fresh Cargo, based in Nottingham, outlines her hopes for the future of the UK high street:
1. Small shop rate relief similar to rate relief on commercial buildings, ie, warehousing;
2. A move away from rents being paid quarterly in advance to monthly;
3. British Association for Fair Trade Shops-registered retailers to receive rate relief similar to charities to encourage more ethical retail;
4. Downwards as well as upwards rent reviews;
5. Rent breaks to be a legal part of the rental agreement every two years;
6. The Government to investigate a regeneration fund for local councils to invest into off-high street retail to improve facilities, store fronts etc - this was done in my local community through Broxtowe council and was very effective;
7. Malls should only be given planning permission if they offer a certain amount of affordable retailing for indies.
Will Seward set up Poptotheshops.net as a virtual online high street for indies in response to some of the issues faced by smaller operators. He told Drapers: “The challenge for many high streets is the lack of unique and bespoke independent retailers in the same vicinity, which, in turn, has led to it being extremely difficult for a town to differentiate itself as a shopping destination. Combine this with the power of the large chain stores and supermarkets which seemingly have a bottomless pit of money from which to advertise. Retailers need to find a way to work together, while maintaining their individuality.”
Daphne Culligan, owner of womenswear indie Renwick Clarke in Lewes, East Sussex, is delighted with Mary Portas’s appointment, and is keen for her to examine the issue of parking. She told Drapers: “I’ve owned an indie boutique for 17 years. We are on the high street in the county town of Lewes in East Sussex. We do have our challenges with rent and rates but by far the worst is our parking regime introduced five years ago. It is so expensive - 50p for 15 minutes outside my door! Not long enough to try garments on and we get so many comments from customers about it.
“We do not have a sea of To Let boards and empty shops that can be seen in other towns. Lewes has many small independents like me and many cafes and bars. We sit alongside a few multiples.
“This is a thriving place with a great mix and we are doing it right.”