The footfall decline in Dartmouth is a reflection of what is happening on high streets across the country. Our problem is more to do with our tourism offer and how we communicate it to our market, but the decline in high street retail is contributing to our problems. The Portas review tried to find a solution without success but now Bill Grimsey, formerly of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, has compiled a new review looking at how we can keep our high streets thriving as the vital focus of our community.
Read the Grimsey Review GrimseyReview04.09
High street policy is still very much in its infancy. Governments of all stripes have failed to get to grips with the big issues facing our high streets for years. And now in a period of deep decline there is an arms race for new ideas. We’ve seen reviews, pilots, future high street forums and more. But none of these initiatives are making much impact and there is a frustrating sense of policy being conducted in the margins. The need to grasp the nettle is bigger than ever.
This review has its origins in the publication of the Government commissioned review of the high street carried out by Mary Portas in December 2011. Amid much fanfare this promised the earth but delivered little.
When we talk about the high street we’re referring to an industry that comprises some 95,000 companies, employing £326 bn of gross assets, borrowing £65 bn and with a total net worth of £135 bn. Think about that for a second. This compares with the entire UK education budget of £53 bn, the defense budget of £24 bn, the Business, Innovation and Skills budget of a mere £13 bn – and it’s way more than the health budget of £110 bn.