The British high street, long viewed as the focal point on both a retail and social level for the community, is suffering. Around the country, these once bustling hubs are dwindling, causing many to question whether their continued presence is anachronistic in modern Britain. The percentage of retail spending occurring on the high street has fallen from nearly 50% at the turn of the millennium to 42.5% in 2012.
To counteract this, Mary Portas, “Queen of Shops” and celebrity retail guru was appointed by the government to lead an independent review into the future of the high street. As a result of this review, 12 towns, labelled “Portas Pilots” were given a share of a £1.2 million government fund in an attempt to breathe life into their struggling centres.
What do independent retailers really need from the Government? It’s not large fanfare scheme’s which one could (admittedly cynically) describe as national PR exercises. It’s actually help on the ground. Owners of small stores have a tough time as it is running their business – it is their livelihood and a full-time job. They need simple support addressing their concerns: business rates, parking for clients, improved planning laws, less red-tape for employing staff and so on. In short, they need the conditions which allow retailers to focus more on running their business, and less on regulation. It is hardly surprising that whenever we speak to clients about finance, these points are the ones which are mostly mentioned as the biggest problems!
Are you a small business owner? What do you want the Government to do for your business?