The search is on to find the best high streets in the UK as a new report reveals increasing optimism among shoppers and the growing popularity of ‘click-and-collect’ services.
A national competition is being launched today (Wednesday) by High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis, alongside new evidence showing that our high streets are rising to the challenge set by consumers who want increased convenience and more flexibility of services on the high streets.
The search, to find and celebrate the best high streets in the country, is being run by the Future High Street Forum and the Association of Town Centre Managers. There are six separate categories in recognition of the diversity of Britain’s high streets: City Centre; Town Centre; Market Town; Coastal Community; Village and parade of shops.
The Government’s long-term economic plan has supported local high streets with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action tackling over-zealous parking practices.
Many high streets affected by the economy in 2008 are now thriving as a result of making changes to serve their communities in increasingly popular ways and Mr Lewis believes this should be recognised.
He said: “Whether it is a market town, coastal village or city centre, there are so many high streets across Britain doing fantastic work and now every community will be able to get behind their home town’s bid to show how popular they are.
“This competition will discover where the Great British High Streets are and celebrate their brilliance. I want the public to tell my panel of experts why their area should win. The most popular will get all the accolades that come with being named the best in Britain when we announce the winners in autumn.”
The competition comes as new analysis by Experian found that high street managers and shop owners are positive about the future thanks to a strengthening economy and the emergence of the ‘one stop shopper’ who prioritises convenience and leisure. This is contributing to greater footfall and people spending more time on the high street.
The study identifies the rise of this evolving consumer behaviour where shoppers prefer ‘convenience culture’ such as ‘click-and-collect’ services so they can multi-task and have more time to socialise while doing their shopping in this convenient way.
Different parts of the country are catering this in a variety of ways: whether it is giving older people easier access to services, helping bargain hunters browse the best deals online or offering city dwellers more fun and variety. This shift is being reflected in a high street that is rapidly moving beyond traditional retail into a ‘Great British’ experience. The report points to the steady growth of convenience stores (+153%), cafes (+75%), fast food (+30%) and restaurants (+20) as proof of this evolution.
The study found that in the East Midlands, High Street customers are:
· Families worried about value, incomes, family friendly, internet shopping
· Hard-pressed singles social media users on low incomes looking for value
· Affluent retired people who want service access, culture, local heritage and who are using technology more.
The study also found that on East Midlands High Streets:
· There has been a sevenfold increase in convenience stores in last decade
· A rise in town centre supermarkets are seen to have increased footfall for local traders
· The number of cafes and restaurants has almost tripled
· Online bargain hunters reflect the need for more carefully placed budget operators
· Chain stores are not engaged in High Street
· There is a lack of parking space.
The competition will be open until the end of August. For more information visit www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk.
**Do you think Northampton could win the competition? Get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, via Twitter @ChronandEcho or Facebook at Northampton Chronicle**