BRC warns of death of UK high streets

The death of UK high streets is accelerating and will only be saved by urgent coordinated national and local action, the British Retail Consortium warns.

High street

Three times more town centre shops are now vacant across Britain compared to last autumn, amounting to 12% of the total, the BRC’s report reveals today (21 July).

The report, “21st Century High Streets: A new vision for our town centres”, sets out a 20 point rescue plan to secure a long-term future for high-street retailers.

Its recommendations include economic health monitoring of high streets, improved town centre design, crime reduction, reduction of costs such as business rates and improved parking access.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson says high streets woes have been made worse by the recession.

“High streets are a crucial part of our national retail mix but many of them are in trouble, facing difficulties that began well before the current recession. Some will flourish again as the economy recovers; others have to shape a different future as customers’ needs change,” he says.

“But that cannot be left to chance. These processes have to be actively managed by local authorities with their retailers, other businesses and residents.”

Supporting the report, Alex Gourlay, Alliance Boots health and beauty division chief executive, says the retailer is “acutely aware” of the “vital importance” of preserving town centres.

“Clearly these are challenging times for many UK high streets. We support the BRC report which, if delivered, will maintain and strengthen high streets’ vitality and viability, ensuring they have a bright and prosperous future,” Gourlay says.

Meanwhile, high street clothing brand Next says it does not expect consumer retail spend to revive this year as it reported a slump in profits by 1.9% for the first six months compared to the same period last year.

It says it expects consumers to continue to “save rather than spend the benefits of lower mortgage costs.”

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