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Lord Wolfson outlines four points to help save the high street

Next chief executive Lord Wolfson has said improving the high street is “simple” and dismissed other tactics as “frills and gimmicks”.

Cheaper parking and larger shop units are among the factors Wolfson believes could help turn around the UK high street.“What is needed to improve the high street is simple,” explained Wolfson. He added there are four key points. The first, he said was “good, quick access by car”, the second is to have plentiful, cheap parking.

Wolfson said high streets should have a “dense pitch of shops with some form of canopy so stop people getting wet and some pedestrianisation to stop people from getting run over. They need units that are large enough to take the sort of ranges retailers have these days which is significantly bigger than in the 1960s and 70s.”

“All the other frills and gimmicks won’t change a thing,” he added. “Town centres that really die are the ones that are reluctant to do any of that.”

There has been a strong focus on the resurrection of the high street over the past few years after Mary Portas was bought on board by the Government to conduct a review and Bill Grimsey also published a review on the topic last week.

Wolfson added that although he believes the UK economy has come to the end of the “credit squeeze” this is not the same as a full recovery. “Our view is we won’t be seeing any real recovery until the time when wage inflation exceeds CPI inflation,” he added. “We are at a pivotal point but it is at least a year off. We remain extremely cautious.”

This comes after the high street chain today announced that operating profits for its first half had grown by 7.2% with the retailer shifting more stock at full price.

Operating profits grew 7.2% to £285m in the six months to July 27 helped by a 3.9% increase in full price sales. Next went into its Sale with 18% less stock than last year and so markdown sales were therefore 13% down on last year.

Sales at the high street retailer rose 2.2% to £1.68bn boosted by additional retail selling space and increased online sales. Increased selling space added 1.8% to total sales.

Readers' comments (4)

  • It takes a retailer to understand the problems with our high st.

    But it will be to late save the high st unless something is done NOW. And not in 5 years time.

    Well done Lord Wolfson, pity you were not on board to advise the government.

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  • Martin Ailion

    Rents and rates need to be considered too.

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  • It all sounds simple. But too many town high streets can't pedestrianize, can't suddenly turn small Victorian or Georgian properties into large units, and can't provide canopied areas without demolition. Cheaper parking charges and provision is a must on every town council's agenda, as is rates. These are the real and accessible issues that will help turn small towns around.

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  • Cheap or free parking certainly encourages more trade. Why should people pay around £9 for 2 hours parking in Manchester ( as I recently did) when you can drive to the Trafford Centre instead and park for free ?! Councils need to do more to help retailers and landlords could encourage higher occupancy with smaller, niche retailers by being more flexible. Shopping locally is no longer a consumer's first point of call.

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