The future of the High Street

As forecast here, the tribulations of some traditional retailers gets worse. There are many older shopping areas and High Streets with empty shops, closing down sales and poor footfall of customers. There is still plenty of buying going on, but more of it is on the web, and more is concentrated in the glamour centres from Bicester Village to the Metro Cemtre, from Oxford Street to Birmingham New Street and from Trafford to Westfield.

We see a pattern of bankruptcies, financial reconstructions and shop shrinkage by many traditional retailers. Administrations and restructuring seek to get rents down to keep shops open, or close stores to cut the cost base. Meanwhile well intentioned policies like the Living Wage and the Stakeholder pensions push up the costs of employment, and business rates help push up the cost of property. A rising cost base hits falling turnover as people examine the goods in store only to  order them from an internet provider on line. Some people complain about the fall of the High Street only to support the rise of the Internet by how they buy.

Last week’s announcement by the government to slash the maximum stake permitted in fixed odds betting terminals in High Street shops was motivated by the wish to cut down addictive gaming which can wreck family finances and damage family life. It is also likely to lead to more High Street closures of such shops and to drive more gambling on line. This comes close on the heels of Mothercare announcing 50 shop closures, and ToysRUs going into administration. House of Fraser is undergoing a financial restructuring and looking for cost reductions. Ocado with its strong on line offering an expansion into the US  now has a larger stock market value than Marks and Spencers.

I am working on a series of options for the government to bring some relief to struggling High Streets, as they wish to do. Flexibility in switching uses and users of High Street property  must  be part of the answer. Plenty of free or cheap shoppers parking nearby is another part. The combined rate and rent package has to be affordable for a moderately successful trader.

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110 Comments

  1. DUNCAN
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    The FOBT announcement was classic virtue signalling masquerading as social concern. It’s very depressing to see this type of political nonsense being embraced by a serious political party like the Tories. We expect this type of politics from the other side. It is, after all, what the modern Labour stands for. Treating mature adults like children as though they’re incapable of managing themselves is the nature of contemporary political culture.

    I suppose most of this type of legislation is designed and implemented as a form of political advertising rather than any concern for real human beings. Hancock’s description of grown adults playing machines in a bookmakers as ‘vulnerable’ was pathetic. Who does the politician think he is? As he any idea how patronising he sounds?

    It seems this Tory government is terrified of being slandered or accused of being uncaring or nasty and so it bends to any degree of pressure from activists. That’s how far we have fallen as a party. Treating mature adults as children to be spoon-fed is now the norm.

    The High Street won’t die but it will shrink in size as governments destroy the private sector’s ability to absorb the ever rising costs of government interference in their pursuit of playing off the private sector to finance the ever wasteful, unreformed public sector providers

    Of course the private sector can’t fight back in the way the public sector can. More of this targeting of the private sector will continue with the public sector going about its business as it’s always done.

    I had the unfortunate experience of seeing this McDonnell person on TV yesterday. This person is a direct threat to the liberties and freedoms of British people. Corbyn is sinister but McDonnell and McCluskey represent existential threats to all we are and all we stand for.

    It is depressing that my party pander still to Labour and do not attack them in all their forms.

    We need an attack dog as our leader. Sweet, polite and understanding will simply not do anymore

    • majorfrustration
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      But Mrs May will “make it clear” and will do nothing

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 4:51 am | Permalink

        Let me make is very clear. To Theresa May. Brexit means Brexit (but in name only of course). All of the disadvantages with non of the huge advantages. Plus Hammonds highest taxes for 40 years, endless attacks on the self employed, a bloated and largely incompetent state sector and absurd over regulation of everything. With rip off green crap energy prices, a lack of competition in banking and very restrictive planning laws on top just for good measure. Plus the threat of Venezuela II from Corbyn and Mc Donnall in the wings.

        Then Minister have the gall to complain about low productivity and growth rates!

        • Adam
          Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          Politicians who say ‘Let me make it clear’ add words to a start which don’t.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      Unfortunately in the age we are going through, pandering to peoples’ inabilities and hyper sensitivities is the taught norm, and being an “attack dog” is seen as hateful and nasty. Capitalism is more closely associated with large banks and hedge funds than with the local newsagent. Incompetence is seen by many as just a part of life-shrugging shoulders is the contemporary response.

      In that sense, T May is a woman of her time.

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        A robotic dope, who says nothing of any substance and everything she does is 180 degrees out from what is needed and what works. Another idiotic Libdim leading the Conservative Party – surely we have had more than enough?

    • Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      “It is depressing that my party pander still to Labour and do not attack them in all their forms.
      We need an attack dog as our leader. Sweet, polite and understanding will simply not do anymore”

      Very well put and I agree so much – When are the Tories going to wake up to the fact that labour are not gentlemen, or even gentlewomen… and worse still they propose destructive socialist actions all the time – Far too many Tories now think like labour.

    • Norman
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Duncan – by the same reasoning, you could argue for every other destructive vice to be liberalized. Do you not have vulnerable loved ones, whom you’d want to protect? Do you not see all our citizens as worthy of some degree of protection from the worst excesses of human nature, and its exploitation by the unscrupulous? Or do you respond, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper’ (‘why should I care – let the fittest survive?’) Do you actually know how people’s lives – yes, often, the vulnerable – are destroyed by addictive gambling – also their families, too? In the past, it was alcohol; today it’s drugs. Although I agree there’s a limit to what prohibition by law can achieve, I would never vote for such a heartless, uncaring political vision. Freedom, like justice, must be tempered with mercy. Its all surely about balance – a characteristic of ‘decent, sensible, populist’ (dare I say ‘British’?) opinion of the old school – the best of the Britain that surely you and I both remember, and love.

      • Norman
        Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        Having now properly read your post, Dr Redwood, I see Duncan is commenting on a specific point you yourself have made. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed in your priorities on this one. If the survival of our high streets depends on (among other things) gambling shops, then we have reached a very low ebb!

    • Posted May 21, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Gambling is a mug’s game.

      Before 1961 High Street betting shops were not legal.

      The numbers of betting shops multiplied because the Fixed Odd machines make so much money. Each betting shop had a legal limit on the number of such machines they could house.

      The government has now correctly acted to finally limit this blight on the High Street and prevent the feckless from squandering every penny they possess.

    • Hope
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      I note May is at it again. She claimed the punishment extension was time limited- not that it was needed whatsoever (first called transition until it became clear nothing changed towards leaving!), she now wants everyone to believe her that her extension to the extension is a backstop! E EU and Ireland will never agree to a solution based on May’s stupidity of her first backstop agreement! She has broken her word and lied already, at what point do you put a stop to her lies and antics? Perhaps we could have another line by line examination of the U.K. Commitments to the EU!

      Memo to Gove: why would anyone believe you? You are a backstabber and put an end to a leaver in charge of Brexit? You are the reason why all this remain nonsense is still going on. I still think he is a double agent to con leavers. If he did firmly beleive in leaving his career was far less important than the national issue of leaving the EU. For him to think otherwise shows how unfit he is for office.

      Oust May and call an election is the way forward to break deadlock.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile it seems clear that Rudd, Greening, Dominic Grieve, Hammond, Green, the Clarks and the rest are almost certainly going to manage push T May into a full cave in on the EU. We surely cannot have another election with this electoral liability and daft, misguided, socialist and ex(?) remainer in charge can we?

    It surely is now time for her to go. As DIA CHAKRAVARTY put it yesterday Corbyn is not as unelectable as we may think or hope. Certainly not against the broken compass, robotic, visionless, electoral liability that is Theresa May.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/05/19/jeremy-corbyn-hasnt-peaked-not-unelectable-think/

    Corbyn would be almost as much or a disaster as remaining in the EU in all but name perhaps even worse.

    • Stephen Berry
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      During the dark days of New Labour, when I was feeling particularly courageous, I would turn on the news in the morning thinking, “what have they banned today” or “how are they making it more difficult to run a business” or “who are they bombing or threatening to bomb”? When I wake up under the Theresa May government, I hear that they are banning plastic cups or plastic straws or want to ban something or other on social media. New costs are always being imposed on business. As light relief, we hear that Syria, a country of absolutely zero threat to the UK, has been bombed.

      Many voted Tory and must feel they have got a New Labour government. In fact, at the moment we have a choice in Parliament between New Labour and Old Labour. It does not have to be like this and there must be many, many people wondering why, apart from Brexit, they voted Tory

      • Al
        Posted May 23, 2018 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        I agree completely with this comment. It always seems to be more red tape and more bans, but I haven’t seen very much being done to help or assist businesses, particularly small ones. Could we please have some work done on reducing regulation, rather than introducing new ones. Possibly that could then lead to reducing the number of civil servants it takes to manage it, which would reduce costs and taxes.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      While it seems that Boris Johnson will stand by and let it happen:

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/05/20/boris-johnson-tells-eurosceptics-give-theresa-may-time-space/

      “He said that an Irish backstop, which would tie Britain to the customs union beyond 2021 if no solution to the Irish border issue can be found, must only be used as a last resort.”

      Well, of course, ineffective though it will be on its own it will prove to be both the first and the last resort. We can already see that stitch-up coming.

      Any other possible resort, such as making no changes at the border but offering a promise that we will continue to ensure that all of the goods sent across it into the Irish Republic will comply with EU standards, as is presently the case through the UK’s single market legislation, will not even be considered.

      Most politicians are used to the idea that the 12% of GDP exported to the rest of the EU should set the grounds rules for the whole economy and they have come to see that as perfectly natural – how could it possibly ever be different? – so it won’t be so difficult for them to swallow the idea that the whole of the UK and its economy and its people should remain subject to EU law in perpetuity for the sake of 0.1% of UK GDP exported across the Irish border.

    • Lifelogic.
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink
      • Georgy Llewor
        Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        And BTW, your DT items are protected and only the first lines are visible to the general public.

    • Mitchel
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      @ Lifelogic & @ Duncan & others – you could save yourselves an awful lot of typing time each day by just re-posting: “May delenda est”!

      It worked-eventually- for Cato the Elder!

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 4:57 am | Permalink

        May delenda est, sed avoiding Corbyn, Mc Donnall and Venezuela.

    • Hope
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      It seems the Leave MPs are slow on the take up. May has never intended to deliver leaving the EU, itis and was a slow war of attrition to get us to change our minds, if she did intend to deliver on leaving Clarke would never have supported her to become PM! EU cannot give the U.K. a good deal, Lords Lawson and King made that perfectly clear at the outset.

      All other countries accept France and Germany would leave! HoC and Lords were always against leaving as were the judiciary, civil service and establishment, that includes the BBC. Hence why is was so dull for leavers to allow May and her appalling record to become PM. You only have to look at the European Arreat Warrant to understand her true position of how she not care about U.K. Citizens, freedoms and liberties against her EU dream.

      • Hope
        Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        JR, could you name one concession by the EU for all the capitulation made by May? I ask because she is now saying her next concession is another backstop and will be time limited, it is not it is a capitulation. It is not time limited because her punishment extension was already the time limited back stop! We have gone way beyond the no deal being better than a bad deal. There is no country in the world that has capitulated so much for nothing in return or given so much just to talk about trade. Name one?

        • Hope
          Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          She has declared by her statement today that she wants the UK to be a vassal state to the EU, pay hundreds of billions without legal liability to do so, ECJ to apply over citizens in this country, unlimited immigration to continue, welfare benefits to children who do not live here and yet born, 27 other countries to decide UK trade policy, EU to have control over UK territorial waters and fishing stock, give away security and defence for nothing in return and hamstring the U.K. ability to award contracts to U.K. business for shipbuilding auxiliary ships etc, have no say over who the UK trades with as EU trade agreements will apply to the UK and all of this without the UK having a voice! If no solution can be found now why does she think there will be one in the future considering EU intransigence of not compromising on anything. This should lead her and any normal rational person to conclude that it is a bad deal.

          • Lifelogic.
            Posted May 22, 2018 at 5:06 am | Permalink

            Exactly. But May is wrong on everything and not normal nor remotely rational. Why as a dopey socialist did she joint the Tories? Nicer constituencies I assume and a better chance of a parliamentary seat than Libdims or Labour. Or perhaps she really does not realise quite how lefty loon she and Tax lunacy Hammond are.

  3. Mark B
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    A good a well thought out piece.

    The problem is too much government tax take and intervention in the market. The solution is NOT to do what I expect them to do, and that is to tax internet shopping.

    Government has become addicted to high tax take to pay for its pensions, salaries, benefits and ‘social promises’ to the electorate of ;”more free stuff ”

    It is good that our kind host seeks to tackle many of the root causes such as parking.

    • Lifelogic.
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Indeed the highest taxes for 40 years under Hammond with absurd tax complexity, mad regulations, work place pensions, attacks on self employment, plus still huge borrowing on top of this too.

      Yet still dire public services, police who have largely given up on real crime and second rate infrastructure too. They cannot even process Roman Abramovitch’s visa renewal it seems.

    • Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Your response does not help it just makes matter worse.

      Where on earth do you think you get your £’s from that then allows you to pay your taxes ?

      In the case of a government that issues its own sovereign currency without a promise to convert at a fixed value to gold or foreign currency (that is, the government “floats” its currency), we need to think about the role of taxes in an entirely different way. Taxes are not needed to “pay for” government spending. Further, the logic is reversed: government must spend (or lend) the currency into the economy before taxpayers can pay taxes in the form of the currency. Spend first, tax later is what happens.

      Where on earth do you think we get the £’s from that then allows us to buy gilts ? When the monopoly issuer of the £ does the insane thing of borrowing £’s.

      It’s like saying the monopoly issuer of widgets needs to borrow widgets.

      • libertarian
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Derek H

        I see you still haven’t googled fractional reserve banking… Oh dear. Why keep posting the same tin foil hat stuff most days?

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Plus we have:- “police spark shoplifting boom by not probing thefts under £200 and indeed advertising this fact” (this per incident I assume too) so in a week you could make quite a tidy sum. Even better than than the tax free £300 Lord’s daily allowance perhaps.

    One large London bookshop I know about, manages to lose over £1 million PA to shop lifters, about £3,000 a day. A criminal justice system with zero deterrents does not seem a very good idea to me unless you want to see more and more crime and criminals that we all have to pay for.

    So what is the Home Office doing with Roman Abramovich’s visa one might have thought they could have deal with this one efficiently at least. Can they not even make their minds up about this one! The department really are totally hopeless and hugely damaging.

  5. sm
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    There should be some form of cap on the number of charity shops allowed within shopping centres/high streets. Most of the staff are unpaid, the goods are donated, rates are less than other commercial properties, and many add to an air of seediness, no matter how worthy the charity itself.

    • Bernard from Bucks.
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry but I can’t agree with this. I think it is an excellent way of recycling unwanted items. Instead of throwing things out or taking them up the tip, they are being re-used and at the same time helping out the poorer in society.
      Here in Beaconsfield and Maidenhead they are very popular and far from seedy.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      I find the charity shops far more interesting than the normal shops. At least they do sometimes have some things that you have not actually seen before.

      Also if you need a can opener, potato masher, cork screw, colander, a decent pan, a bit of furniture or similar then the old second hand ones (often at the charity shops) are often so much sturdier and more functional than the light weight modern rubbish that bends or breaks the first time you use it. Far cheaper too. Plus you do not have to assemble it yourself in the case of many things.

      Modern stuff is designed to use the minimum of metal, materials or plastic – so that they works only a few times before you throw them away.

    • Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Indeed – one wonders how charity shops can afford so many high street shops

      • Georgy Llewor
        Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        They do not pay business rates at the same rate as other shops. I thought it was a well-known fact, obviously not.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      I believe rates are zero and they employ mainly volunteers, which is why they proliferate. That’s not all bad though. You have to ask what the councils actually do with these business rates, and why they need to levy them on small enterprises in the first place?

      They were certainly a root cause of us thinking twice before expanding.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      We have a church running a coffee shop with volunteers undercutting local businesses.

      I refused to staff the club bar voluntarily on the basis that it was doing a young person out of a job and that we should be hiring a room in a local pub anyway and giving them our business. As it is there is a small core of virtuous activists who make all the other members feel guilty for putting their feet up on their hard earned (and rare) days off.

      Volunteers sometimes do great harm to local economies and the heads of the organisations make a great deal of money out of them.

    • forthurst
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Some so-called charity shops are actually collecting money for their illegal people smuggling activities in the Mediterranean in order to change irreversibly the demographic make-up 0f Europe. Thankfully, the new coalition of populist (ie popular) parties in Italy has promised to remove half a million unassimilables which just shows how countries which have PR can change their parties to support popular policies, which is infinitely more desirable than allowing the liblabcons elected by FPTP to change their countries and make objecting to their treason illegal.

      • Anonymous
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 3:16 am | Permalink

        Charity shops are also restricting the supply of retail units to new starters.

        I bet there is no policy in place where a viable start-up takes priority over a subsidised charity shop and the charity shop is forced to give way and vacate to allow a real business to take up residence.

        So rents are being driven up artificially through council subsidy and constriction of supply.

  6. agricola
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    My watchwords for the High Street would be quality and variety. I would accept that that to a great extent it is dependant on where the high street is. What works in Windsor might not in Wall End.

    By quality I mean specialist shops. Delicatessens , Cheese shops, Bakeries, Butchers ( supermarket meat in the UK is generally dreadful), Fishmongers (where can you find one these days), Street markets, ( not one day a month events). Clothes shops with good quality, almost unique, inexpensive ranges, Restaurants, Pubs, Cafes.

    M&S and other large clothes shops might consider come in , feel the width, try it on, and order via the internet facility at the shop.

    Business rates should reflect turnover, parking should be prolific, as should pedestrianisation. Good frequent bus services to draw on a towns catchment area at times to suit the customer. A visit to ones local town should be a stress free pleasant experience that brings you back regularly. Policing should be visible and constant.

    Discuss Worcester with Robin Walker, a town that is heading in the right direction. I always look forward to revisiting even at my extreme distance.

    • Adam
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Independent shops are the essence of quality & variety within High Streets. Recurring chains of multiple sameness destroy the identity of shopping places. When everywhere is the same, movement lacks purpose.

  7. Original Richard
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    “Some people complain about the fall of the High Street only to support the rise of the Internet by how they buy.”

    If this is increasingly true, then surely “working on a series of options for the government to bring some relief to struggling High Streets”, is just acting as King Canute ?

    Perhaps many properties in High Streets would be better used for providing much needed smaller and affordable housing ? Certainly a better use than many charity shops.

    • Adam
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      If High Streets cannot support themselves, their use for housing, green spaces or other sensible purposes might be better.

  8. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Landlords and councils should make it easier for multiple outlets to exist in the same store. Grocers sharing with restaurants. Phone repairers sharing with clothes retailers, fruit stalls outside butchers.

    Less stock required to fill the store, lower overheads and built in cover for when the owner needs to take a break.

    These mini department stores can then offer lower prices and compete with the Internet by providing expertise and service.

    Larger retailers such as Wilkinson have embraced such diversification of product lines and expertise. Marks and Spencer similarly has a wide range but the quality expected from the price paid is often missing now they purchase from abroad. This shows how important ranging and quality are in the procurement process.

    There is no reason for physical retail to die, people love shopping (look in any Primark store) but retailers need to get better and councils need to make it easier.

  9. acorn
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Time to get into “last mile” warehouses and student accommodation. UK commercial property rental profits are higher than those in most of western Europe. 50% is bought up by foreign speculators. Government will continue to kill off the mortgaged buy to let investors, to push construction into the build to rent market.

  10. NHSGP
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Taxing people before they even make a sale is the biggest issue.

    Next, you’ve driven people out of the high street with parking.

    When all roads lead to you and your fellow politicians, you are the problem not the solution

    • Adam
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Taxing people after the sale is better, even if the amount of tax they pay is the same. Enabling the purchaser to choose is freer.

  11. Spratt
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    I have mixed views on charity shops as many are at least keeping shops open that would otherwise be boarded up, they are helping to recycle goods and the volunteers who help staff them are quite often people who gain a community and/or skills that they can then use to move into paid employment. I’m involved with a shop for a small local charity that now employs some former volunteers and has helped others who had been out of the workplace for a prolonged period but gained confidence, work discipline and the foundation of a CV through their voluntary work.
    But I feel less positive about the way certain big national charities run shops as an industry. They have low margins but the profit is in the sheer scale and some of the merchandise is manufactured for the shops rather than recycled items.

  12. formula57
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Why “bring some relief to struggling High Streets”?

    The reasons they struggle reflect their continuing journey from less wanted to unwanted by the public. Let the high street conversion to hospitality and entertainment establishments accelerate without interference that is in any case likely only to delay the demise of high street retail.

  13. Andy
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Our high streets have not kept pace with the times. My local town centre – in a very affluent part of Buckinghamshire – is mainly charity shops, estate agents and hairdressers. There are numerous empty shops.

    There are many things we need to do. Firstly, make it much easier to change the use of a premises. People want cafes, restaurants, bars – but it is often hard to convert shops into these things.

    We need to axe short stay parking charges in town centres. If you are staying less than 2 hours you should not face additional fees. Bicycle parking should be provided too.

    Community hubs are needed – so stick police officers, health officials etc in a premises on our high streets – this gives people another reason to visit.

    Finally – don’t forget about the little ones. Parents are crying out for good facilities for kids. Rather than mass out of town warehouses we should have indoor play areas aimed at children in our town centres too.

    Of course Brexit will help none of this because we will all be poorer anyway.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Andy

      You were being very sensible for a change then you added the last line, which was pointless and wrong. One of the massive benefits of leaving the EU is that the 92% of small businesses that do no trade with the EU will no longer have to waste time and money complying with regulations

  14. A.Sedgwick
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Mail order, as it was known, is nothing new with catalogue retailing being successful for many decades. The internet has obviously made it slicker though more risky. The old catalogue companies were British based paying full taxes, purchase tax was not bendable and went to our Treasury, there was no syphoning profits offshore. . Business rates are ruinous for many retailers, driving to city centres and even retail parks is not enjoyable and parking costs can be prohibitive. In short I would put the death of the high street down to the usual head in the sand government, waking up to the blindingly obvious when the horse has disappeared over the horizon.

    • Adam
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Distributing heavy mail order catalogues was wasteful & offered over-expensive products, but were funded by consumers who paid high charges weekly, often only because they needed credit.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Er VAT is not “bendable” either.

      I’ve no idea why you think internet retailing is more risky than catalog shopping. Why you think that overseas profits didn’t go “offshore ” back then I’ve no idea

      Government should stop trying to “save the high street” , business rates, car parking shortages and charges have exacerbated a massive problem

  15. Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Government seems to be too relaxed about how we are losing our high streets – which always used to be a focal point in our lives. Shops are taxed too heavily, and councils make access almost impossible with draconian parking charges and one way systems.
    It’s time small traders, like shops, had a helping hand, and reducing the tax burden would be a benefit.
    Councils could also make town centres more attractive, to attract people. Take a look at St Ives in Cambridgeshire… a small yet attractive town centre – That should be a model to help regenerate other towns.
    https://www.google.com/maps/@52.3233198,-0.0730868,3a,75y,339.48h,89.47t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s01P1Vnh61nXa_-I-gEE5Gw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  16. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    As you say the government needs to consider whether it considers online mega-retailers provide more tax-per-buck-spent than the equivalent number of small retailers operating from the high street, and alter tax rates accordingly. Presumably either up for online or down for high street shops.

  17. HardyB
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    access to free and easier parking would be a big help and go a long way in reversing the trend..but cannot see it happen because councils and boroughs etc have found it too easy to screw the long suffering motorist..so I expect nothing much will change..it’s much easier to drive to the mall park for free and take your time having coffee afterwards

  18. Kenneth
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Bricks & mortar retailers need to get together to form local funds with 2 main aims:

    1. Convert some lost capacity to car parking space

    2. Introduce “virtual” shopping of their local town using the internet and have a consolidate local delivery service

    Individual stores may not have the infrastructure to provide these services, but collectively they could do it.

    This may need some input by local or national government to seed such schemes (not with money but by acting as facilitators to get things moving )

    I have long thought that it is nuts having a dozen vans delivering goods to homes when such deliveries could be consolidated to fewer runs. Also, why have a dozen websites when you can have one that represents your town?

    • Adam
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      You make an excellent suggestion, Kenneth.

      A single Click & Collect warehouse next to a car park in each populated area would eliminate wasteful complicated delivery repetition.

      No need for building: the single lorry delivering could be the collection access point.

      • libertarian
        Posted May 23, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Adam & Kenneth

        Er click and collect points already exist

        Amazon have been doing this for ages ,see here

        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Click-and-Collect-with-Pick-Up-Locations/b?ie=UTF8&node=5394826031

        As have Parcel2go, Hermes , DHL, Collect Plus etc etc etc.

        Why you think hundreds of cars all driving to one location and queuing to pick up their parcel is better than home delivery Ive no idea

        I like the convenient sensible approach which is you’ll deliver what I just ordered sometimes within the space of a couple of hours direct to my home or office

  19. libertarian
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    So in response to this problem on the High Street A conservative government RAISED business rates. They stick with archaic planning laws. I own a shared workspace ( offices) in an old supermarket building , council wouldn’t let me change from retail use so had to set up as an internet cafe. I pay more rates than the local Tesco… This is absurd

    Meanwhile car parks are closing, and those that are left are raising their prices.

    No wonder people think politicians are all stupid. The only interest from government in its war on small businesses is how much more tax they can take

  20. alan jutson
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Yes the wonderful internet revolution is now in full swing, betting on line, banking on line, purchasing of all kinds of products and services on line with a card, no cash needed.
    The touchy feely, examine the goods before you purchase is gradually drifting into the sunset as the massive overheads of staff, high street buildings, business rates, car parking charges, and other costs spiral out of control.

    Problem is we are getting more and more reliant on computer systems which are wonderful when they work, but when they don’t its chaos.
    Tried to renew my driving licence on line yesterday, but the DVLA address system is at least 40 years out of date, as my property does not exist according them, even though it is printed on my existing driving licence, is on my passport, and recognised by HMRC and the Department of Work and Pensions, and the many other official departments who have demanded and collected money for the past 40 years from that same address.
    Yes purchasing on line is an advantage for some purchasers, but we will eventually rue the day if everything goes the same way, even the coffee shops will suffer eventually, as the traditional town foot fall drops.

    Still, older commercial buildings can then perhaps be converted into living accommodation which could/should help in some way to resolve the present housing crisis.

  21. Nig l
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    A new title for you. King Canute of the high street. I thought you paid Mary Portas a lot of money to do precisely this. Presumably to little or no effect. Ah well what’s another few wasted millions?

    • libertarian
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Yup and Portas came up the the ludicrous Business Improvement District they put a levy on the already exorbitant business rates. Total stupidity and a complete failure. Our local BID company failed and the CEO fled to France…. we are still paying the 2% levy though

  22. BOF
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Quite right on parking. Business also needs lower business rates and the shedding of red tape from Government. Lower and simpler tax would help them, but that will not happen with the current appalling combination of PM and Chancellor.

    Many high street businesses now have an online presence and more will have to follow. This has the advantage of customers being able to see the goods and order online if the colour or size is not available. Out of town ware houses cannot do this.

  23. walter
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    ” Flexibility in switching uses and users ”
    Does this mean more unused shops being converted into living accommodation? You can’t keep pushing more and more of Africa and Asia into an island, but you keep letting them in for us to pay for.

  24. Stephen Priest
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    One thing that would help would be to let shops open as long as they want to on a Sunday.

    In Italy supermarkets stay open till at least 9pm on a Sunday.

    If somebody wants a day out on a Sunday the current normal opening hours, 10am-4pm, are exact times for family day out. These times are also every awkward for anyone who works on a Sunday.

    The usual arguments against this are that extended Sunday trading would kill off small shops and convenience stores. However this does not seem likely as they don’t have a problem the rest of the week.

    Everything else can happen on a Sunday. Why is shopping considered so evil that it must be restricted?

  25. Adam
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Congested car parking prevents shoppers. Designers should think inside the tight box. Spiral-shaped parking enables more vehicles to use the finite space, & is drive-forward, avoiding reversals that obstruct all. The solution is a can of paint.

  26. Alastair Harris
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    the issue here is not the future of the high street, but rather the incessant and increasing interference by jobsworths and politicians in our daily lives.

  27. Rien Huizer
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Dying High Streets are a feature of all developed economies. Yet to come: a reduction of 70-85% of bank retail branches (banks in Scandinavia and Holland are doing even better). Stand alone betting shops are a very poor replacement. Many high streets are also busy thoroughfares, etc. Free parking would only work for attractive locations and there the attraction could be spoiled by lack of spaces relative to demand. Finally, for someone generally (and rightly) sceptical about government intervention: why bother?

    • libertarian
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Rien

      You are right, except that our High Streets are dying because of archaic and nonsensical planning regulations and because theres no adequate parking.

      There is a massive shortage of small easy access office space in most places in South East of UK, try getting change of use from retail on most of it and try finding somewhere for staff to park

      The future of High St’s is mixed use, homes, offices, food and drink and leisure plus one or two speciality shops

  28. D. A. Lek
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Why has the government been pouring multi-millions into Local Authorities for them to waste in huge “improvements” to town centre shopping? Why hasn’t it provided more money for in-town horse and wagon stabling, horse troughs at prominent places and a blacksmith or two ready to re-horseshoe? Footpedalled sewing machines are nowhere on sale either. Not to mention public urinals and spittoons gracefully placed in renewed bus stations.

  29. SecretPeople
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I totally agree that car parking has to be part of the solution. Often, we see rows of shops on busy roads with double yellow lines or even fencing running along the kerb. No one can get near the shops to visit them. One by one the shops close down, only to reopened by more optimistic business owners; then, over time, these too close and are relaunched..

    In the past home ownership was affordable enough with one breadwinner, while the partner (usually the wife) stayed at home. My mum and grandma both did a daily shop, on foot. Now, both of us work full-time, have school-run etc, and we are so short of time we do all our shopping online, including the groceries – which doesn’t help the high street and small niche shops.

  30. Anonymous
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    It follows that the internet would batter the high street but is the leeching done by councils with hefty business rates and parking charges helping ?

    Just how is anyone supposed to make a living outside of government employ ?

  31. Lifelogic
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Rates are far too high (and even due now on empty shops – yet another back door tax increase), parking far too expensive, planning/building rules too slow and far too inflexible. The shops are rather boring too, all having the same things often trying to charge 10+ times the cost to them for tat, poor stock levels (on sizes) and with long queues at checkouts often too. Charity shops, if anything, rather more interesting than normal ones. Proper (wide range) bookshops have almost disappeared – other than perhaps in Oxford, Cambridge and London.
    People go to look at goods then order them on line (often while still in the shop itself).

    Plus we have:- “police spark shoplifting boom by not probing shoplifting thefts under £200 and even advertising this approach”. (This per incident I assume too) so in a week you could make quite a tidy sum. Even better than than the tax free £300 Lord’s daily allowance!

    One large London bookshop I know about, manages to lose over £1 million PA to shop lifters, about £3,000 a day. So many criminals just allowed to walk free every day and then come back tomorrow.

    A criminal justice system with zero deterrents does not seem a very good idea to me unless you want to incubate crime and get more and more criminals that we all have to pay for.

  32. Robin Hood
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    At times I have found one or two of the staff in shops, market stalls, travel agencies, intrusive, deceitful, ill-mannered, dishonest and aggressive.
    I prefer online shopping as I do not need to continually remind myself not to generalize and use my life-work experiences and skills to close-down conversations. I do not wish conversations. I do not wish to count my change and secure it against pickpockets while security cameras watch me for the the fun of it and reference my photos AFTER a terrorist has murdered me to see if I died well for possible broadcast on the 10 o’clock news.

  33. Stred
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    The increase in business rates was given as a major problem in a radio phone in discussion. They are higher than some rents now and yet refuse collection at extortionate charge is additional. To add to the destruction of business, councils have been increasing parking charges and making free streets near centres solely residents only on one side. Many just give up going to town and visit stores with parking or order by computer.

    We went for an excellent lunch yesterday in a lovely country pub. It was only a third full. With lower limits for beer and wine on the way and huge rates to pay plus wage and pension increases, one wonders whether government interference and greed will kill off these wonderful English institutions.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 2:56 am | Permalink

      ‘Lower limits for beer’

      Those who advocate this always cite the driver 4x over the limit who will ignore the new lower limits too.

      Yet again, government killjoys punishing everyone rather than targetting the few.

      I am not going to crash my car after a hike and a couple of pints with my ploughman’s. Never have done and never will.

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        Indeed it is the very drunk, perhaps racing their mates home or egged on by drunk passengers who are the main danger. Cycling is statistically far more dangerous than driving while just over the limit and yet the government actively encourages that activity.

  34. Daniel Chilvers
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    There needs to be a recognition that town and city centers (medium sized) are the cultural, social as well as commercial hub of a community. They are a place to meet, socialise and bring people together. A strong retail core is a necessary part of the mix. Once this is widely agreed, policy needs to be designed to facilitate the desired outcome.

    In the past, governments and councils could view town and city centers as something to tax and regulate to gain revenue without harm as there were no competing options for shoppers. Parking fees with over zealous enforcement, business rates, VAT, living wage, apprenticeship levy, pensions are all examples among many others that are killing businesses and jobs. In addition, landlords could have a lucrative tenant on onerous terms and do very little to earn it. All this has changed and everyone seems to have been painfully slow to respond. On top of all this, many things such as begging, drug taking, in your face charities, stag and hen parties, endless buses with only 4 people on board thundering through pedestrian zones and other harassment of shoppers that doesn’t happen in big shopping centers and online go unchallenged by the same authorities that go on trying to harvest all that tax as though nothing has changed.

    The government and local authorities firstly need a huge kick up the backside to recognise the damage their persistent arrogance is doing. I commend Mr. Redwood for finally looking into this, hopefully with some ongoing urgency.

  35. a-tracy
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Our Secondary town centre has been killed off by our Council in order to try to push shoppers into the Primary town which we advised Council meetings years ago had a terrible road system and we didn’t want to use it, who wants to be stuck in a 30-minute traffic jam on top of a 20 minute journey just to shop – well Council Officials news for you NO ONE! Plus they can’t attract decent retailers because they don’t have the spenders’ footfall. Then the designers put the cinema at the edge of the complex with an elongated walk away from the car park, result NO ONE wants to go at night, it is scary there for women alone and uncovered if it is raining! The rent and rates for the shops there are too high and unfilled and worse of all the Council used ratepayers money and investment funds to fund and underwrite this terribly designed and managed project.

    The Supermarkets and out of town supermarket small stores have killed off nearly all local family shops, those surviving will be killed off by these same supermarkets buying out and closing down the wholesalers. Butchers, bakers and fresh food stalls have closed or are closing so now all we have is two low range supermarkets!

    M&S and other big droppers can’t blame the Internet, I’m sorry but as a previous regular shopper I can tell you they have been getting their clothing ranges wrong for years! Their children’s ranges used to be unbeatable – no longer. Their ladies range used to cover every event, now I go in with my daughter and mother and none of us sees any clothes we’d buy or than underwear! Colours are drab. Toys R Us failed to move with the times and technology.

    Changing unused offices and shops into homes again makes sense, however, a town centre needs mixed development, offices (whose workers support shops in the week when residents are working away), shops on the ground floor of three to six floor retirement flats conveniently then located in the centre of town, near to doctors, transport, shops with minimal gardening but they all must have a balcony, outdoor sitting space to watch the world go by or the garden for those preferring peace and quiet work well in London so why aren’t local planners looking at what is working well and desireable elsewhere.

    • a-tracy
      Posted May 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      “M&S’s traditionally middle-aged female shoppers have more choice that ever before thanks to fast-fashion rivals such as Zara, H&M and Primark.” Guardian – NO, M&S need to ask their card holders where they are shopping and it certainly isn’t Primark! Zara! or H&M etc ed
      The M&S shoppers I know switched to brands in Debenhams and House of Fraser inc. Phase Eight, Ted Baker, Matthew Williamson, RJR (but he’s gone a big grey this season), Barbour coats and designer outlets which offer better quality clothes for less. The men’s ranges are much better offerings in House of Fraser, Ben Sherman, Diesel, Duck and Cover (they do well to get customers used to their ranges in department stores but close down too quickly to sell on line).

  36. KZB
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    On the other hand I many of these stores seem to have a death wish.

    What is so hard about keeping all sizes in stock or getting staff onto the tills when there are queues?

    I went in a Tesco on Saturday and the eggs shelf was bare !

    Treating customers with this much contempt makes me wonder.

    Also there is the war on the motorist waged so successfully by local authorities, that is a big factor.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 3:00 am | Permalink

      They call us ‘motorists’ like it’s our hobby.

      Norman Tebbit told me to get on my bike but I did better. I took out insurance and the liability of keeping my car on the road and in good order. This in order to make myself employable and independent of the government.

      For this I get utterly spanked.

      This is especially galling when I pay for a repair bill for wear and tear caused through getting to work.

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        I’m with you Anonymous. The difficulty is that lots of our lawmakers and rate setters live and work in Cities, they have no idea what it is like outside of main cities with decent public transport to hop on and off day and night covered with a maximum price per day and free for pensioners (even those that continue to work).

  37. mancunius
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Let’s say, I live in or near an English town/city and want to buy a large and heavy item. To purchase it at (say) JL and take it away myself will cost me parking fees and (in London) a hefty congestion charge; also my own working/earning/doing-something-else time.
    There is no other personal advantage to be gained from driving in, parking etc. Congested streets full of visitors, crowded, impersonal cafés, restaurants, pubs etc. Better by far to stay where I am, research the goods I need online, and have them delivered, while I carry on working, earning and profiting.
    Naturally, I shall look for the most competitive total goods+delivery price and most competent delivery service. Eventually retailers will realize they are overpaying for central high street space and will move to less expensive areas, where canny councils are not so greedy, parking is easier, and the retail ‘experience’ can be improved.
    This development is irreversible.

  38. Ron Olden
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The situation for many High Street Businesses is hopeless. It’s like the coal industry in the 1980s.

    Prices and the choice available On Line are BOUND to be much better, and especially for anything that requires delivery.

    Why would anyone go and buy a Washing Machine, TV, etc, in a conventional retail outlet, let alone in a Department Store?

    I usually buy my carpets at Carpetright. But recently when I re-carpeted my flat I did it On Line and paid a local man to come and fit them.

    It turned out he could do floor tiling as well, so I bought a load of tiles On Line for some of the rooms.

    Choosing from the vast range of sizes and styles of carpet roll ends, and clearance tile stocks, it worked out at half the price in total, enabled me to get bertter quality for the money, exactly what I wanted, and took me much less time to do the shopping.

    The only practical thing the Government can do to make it easier for new businesses to start up in High Streets is to reform Business Rates so they’re based on turnover.

  39. Jason wells
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Just what is the point in agonising over things like the High Street. Shopping habits over any period of time will be changing and if internet shopping is coming then so be it. My neighbour next door a man of thirty years of age has his weekly shopping delivered to his door by Tesco truck..shopping all ordered on the internet. Like me he lives only one mile from the centre of town..but never goes there..the last time i myself visited town was before christmas when I had to call in to see the soliciter..for my shopping I drive to the big shopping centres on the outskirt of town where I have free unlimited unobstructed parking..on the outskirts I have all the usual supermarkets..clothes shops and hardware etc etc.so why go to town?

  40. nigel seymour
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Reduce VAT to 17%. That will sort it along with council free parking.

  41. Mike Wilson
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    You could have mentioned the Oracle in Reading which seems to be busy whenever I make the mistake of going there. And the new centre in Bracknell is doing well. At least, the restaurants are.

  42. Ghost of JB
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Surely abolition of business rates and a local income tax and corporation tax are the only ways to reinvigorate both local politics and the high street? Just trimming a little of the fat from the government’s plate will only postpone the inevitable.

  43. Andy
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I note that a new poll shows public opinion in Northern Ireland has swung dramatically against Brexit. A vast majority now back remain – as in Scotland and London.

    With the vast majority of all young people rejecting Brexit too it is only a matter of time until opinion swings firmly in favour of the EU in England and Wales too.

    At a point in the very near future – when Brexit is clearly no longer ‘the will of the people’ – what arguments will you be able to put in favour of it then?

    • Edward2
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      A majority in NI rejected leaving in the first place.
      So no real change.
      Abother survey reported on Guido show young people prefer May to Corbyn.
      It’s all hot air until another election

    • mancunius
      Posted May 21, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Which bit of ‘A UK-wide national referendum is a single, national vote’ do you not grasp? Even if NI voted 69% to remain in the EU, it would change the national Remain percentage from 48.11% to, ahem… 48.33%. Big deal.

      So no cigar as usual Andy. The rest of your stuff is just the usual unfounded bluster.

      Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, and its trade is overwhelmingly with the rest of Britain. It might in theory vote to join the RoI…
      …Ah, but you forgot to mention the findings of the other poll – by ICM – published today: only a paltry 21% of the voters in Northern Ireland would now vote for union with the RoI – and of the Catholics polled, less than half of them would vote for a United Ireland.

      That ICM poll also showed that a very small proportion in NI (less than 20% of Catholics, for instance) have any objection at all to cameras at the border. As the NI commentator says: “That finding is particularly striking because the Government and the EU have already ruled out such a move, in the apparent belief that it would be unacceptable to nationalists.”

      Excellent, then the UK government must now put it back on the table in Brussels.

    • Posted May 22, 2018 at 1:37 am | Permalink

      You do realise that half of that poll involved 1,012 people and the other part of the poll, asking about Leave or Remain, was conducted by asking the question to a range of 48 people, yes, only 48 people, so next time you salivate with your facts, find out ho many people were actually asked, as it makes you look a bit silly, gloating over these factual numbers.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      The article 50 letter has been issued after a Parliamentary vote, after a referendum – which you took part in and agreed to abide by the result.

      • Anonymous
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 3:10 am | Permalink

        BTW – Is that the same Remain voting London where young people can’t stop stabbing each other and throwing acid in each other’s faces ?

      • Andy
        Posted May 22, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        I didt agree to abide by the result of the referendum.

        A referendum called to try to fix a long running row in the Tory party.

        It was nothing to do with the country.

        It was to do with trying to appease a bunch of unappeasable ideologues.

        I am delighted with Brexit.

        It has been even more of a disaster than I could ever have imagined.

        Brexiteers do not just look hapless.

        They look outdated, they look nasty and they basically look a bit dim.

        Brexit is dying. It’s just a matter of time until it’s dead.

        • libertarian
          Posted May 23, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          Andy

          Your predictions get sillier by the day ( no wonder you have to close your business)

          Officials in Germany’s economic powerhouse state of Hesse – home to significant industry and the major financial centre of Frankfurt – say Brexit has had no negative effect on business. Prof. Mathias Mueller, President of the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explained:

          “Exports to the UK totalled 4.1 billion euros in 2017, which was 6.5 percent of Hessen’s exports… The sectors most affected include automobiles and automotive parts, since many Vauxhall automobiles sold in the UK are essentially “Made in Hessen”. Traditionally important export goods from Hessen are also chemical and pharmaceutical products as well as electro-technical products.”

          “Many local companies have also invested in the UK. According to statistics of the German Bundesbank, Hessen’s direct investment in the UK amounts to nearly 21 billion euros. Hessian companies employ 39,000 people in the UK. Conversely, British companies in Hessen employ as many as 60,000…

          “Business is running as usual, a ”Brexit shock” has not occurred and most companies are so experienced in international trade that they can deal with problems such as customs clearance, different national licensing processes, site-specific legal norms and the like. In general, the issues confronting companies with Brexit are nothing new.”
          Meanwhile, a nationwide poll by the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry found that even if the framework conditions for future business are not yet clear, companies that are invested in the UK will stand by their commitments. More than 91% of companies replied to the question of possible relocations away from the UK with “no”

          So its just you then Andy , I suggest you hire an experienced older , wiser person to help you come to terms with all of this

  44. Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Just reduce

    Business rates

    Taxes

    Vat

    From all small businesses. The monoply issuer of the £ does not need their £’s in order to spend.

    The monopoly issuer widgets does need widgets from anybody. Apart from to take spending power away to control inflation.

  45. David Price
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I think your point about switching use and users is key. If the town centre and city neighborhoods are to remain as focal points then they need to encourage and attract enterprise and activities beyond simple retail. For example, workeries, makeries, low cost spaces for startups, manufacturing, re-purposing/upcycling, even learning.

  46. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    sm, not so many years ago a respected retail consultancy predicted that by 2025 or earlier it would be difficult to distinguish a charity shop from any other whether national brand or local. The shops would not exist if the demand wasn’t there. Despite the ‘struggle’ for some on the high street it is not uncommon for charity shops to be exceeding £1M/annum in turnover and rising.

  47. gregory martin
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Your concerns come about 30 years too late. Corrective measures should have been taken when the trend was for ‘out of town’ stores and the introduction of extended opening. A ‘multiplier’ of business rates for more than 40 hours trading, in ratio to hours open , would have levelled the playing field somewhat. Equal parking charges for in and out of town parking; perhaps by Rating stores parking areas, so revenue producing, full or empty.
    Another factor is the almost universal refusal of property companies to let retail space to sole traders & non PLC companies, either directly or by imposition of impossible to afford charges.
    Many retailers, mainly the corporate ones, have “dumbed down” the retail sales role to the point that it is not a career path one could recommend. This, above all else, has broken the pleasure of face to face shopping ; where in decades past one might have expected the assistant to have known more about the merchandise than one self, and to have benefitted by their knowledge, recommendations and the service that they took pride in delivering.
    It’s too late now.

    • Adam
      Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Retail staff used to be high calibre specialists, but many now aren’t. Posed with a product question, a familiar reply is ‘I’m not 100% sure’ followed by the employee resorting only to reading the small print on the product package aloud, as if the customer needed spectacles or couldn’t read his or her own language.

  48. old salt
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Excessive ‘cash cow’ parking charges, declining needs as shops moving to out of town centres combined with a lack of toilets needed after a journey is surely a disincentive to visit town centres thus ensuring the continued decline. Without my bus pass I rarely go there.

  49. Martin
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Unless Nimby planning laws, conservation rules for second rate historic rubbish are dumped, and expensive car parking (Private and council) then town centres will continue to decay.

    Regarding Internet Shopping folk forget Mail Order catalogues were popular 40 years ago!.

    Apart from that sometimes an economic change occurs and that is it. Blacksmiths?

  50. F Dixon
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Towns across the UK have successfully improved themselves with pedestrianised areas no one wants to visit or walk through. They have destroyed the cheap wide ranging public transport and successfully reduced the town centres cheap, easy to get to and find car parks. Add to this a distinct lack of commercial realism with regard to the costs of running a small business like a shop on behalf of the local council it is no wonder towns are dying. Town centres must start to look at why supermarkets beat them in footfall and why people like the choice offered by the internet in order to compete. Town centre shops must work together and town councils must think outside the box and recognise that they hold some of the answers to improve the lot of their own town centres through the reduction of business rates etc. Get cars into towns and parked up quickly, and out again promptly.

  51. Edward2
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Without leaving my sofa, today I ordered 6 things to be delivered tomorrow to my door free of any delivery charges and approximately half the price of my local town high street prices.
    I placed these orders from my new tablet in a few minutes at my kitchen table.
    I have not had to drive in and risk overstay fines from complex parking rules and I have been able to carry on with my working day.
    It is the modern way.

  52. Alison
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Windows boarded up with MDF, possibly then adorned with graffitti … I’ve seen several towns which have attractive pictures of the town put up in empty premises’ windows instead. This means that a street, instead of accumulating more and more MDF shop fronts, which can command less and less interest, looks human.

    Another suggestion is park and ride buses, with very low (or zero) fares.

    Another point is that so many of our high streets look almost the same, with those ghastly shop fronts of the big and smaller chains, repeated from town to town. So towns are stripped of their character.

  53. David Williams
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Restaurants too are changing due to the internet (eg Deliveroo).

    Empty shops should be converted for residential use. Solves the housing shortage.

    The UK is ahead of most countries in these trends. We should be making preparations for automated vehicle and drone deliveries.

  54. JJE
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    You could do worse than listen to the Woman’s Hour on Retail from the recent Bank Holiday.

    It’s a huge generational shift. The old people are left lost in town centres where all the shops are gone. The middle aged are buying from the established web sites, and the youngsters are driven by social media influencers and soon to be buying direct from Instagram.

    If it’s a chore for us to shop for something we will buy it online. If we have to battle through traffic over potholed roads to pay a ransom to park – well now we have alternatives.

    We will only go to town centres for positive experiences.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b1p51p

  55. Mick B
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Lots of very negative comments about car parking availability and cost here but nobody has mentioned the real reason. Due to the religion of Climate Change councils think they are saving the world if they can stop people using cars to visit the high street. Hence few parking spaces at great cost. I suspect driven by legally enforceable EU targets to reduce CO2 levels.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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