Ashley’s straight talking points the way to reinvigorating our high street
WHEN retail boss Mike Ashley’s appeared before the housing, communities and local government select committee last week he was in typically combative mood.
Paraphrasing his comments, he was basically saying that the mainstream high streets are already dead and it’s all down to the internet.
The question, he said, is what can be done to save the vast minority (and by that we include local high streets such as Southport).
During his examination by the committee he proposed a number of recommendations some of which fall within the remit of local authorities.
They include more park and ride schemes and free parking.
Other recommendations such as a reform of business rates and introducing a new sales tax on online retailers can only be implemented at a national level.
So there’s an important role for government.
The private sector has a part to play too.
Bricks and mortar retailers, those with a physical presence on the high street, can look at “click and collect” promotions, for example, as one way of getting shoppers back into stores.
Private sector landlords need to take a long hard look at their property rental strategies.
Residents, too, can do more to support their high street by supporting their local independents.
And Business Improvement Districts have a vital role to play in bringing everything (and everyone) together.
So, solving the issues facing the high street is a job for everyone: the public sector, the private sector, landlords, and all of us.
To make it happen our high streets need investment.
Local authorities will say that the investment they put into promoting their high streets needs to be balanced against the investment that has to go into other frontline services such as adult social care.
Going back to Mike Ashley’s comment on High Streets in general.
Our high street (and by that we mean the town centre) is not dead. It’s not even close. It might not be very well at the moment, and is now in need of some tender loving care.
But it can and will get better.
There’s a strong partnership already in place: the BID and Sefton Council are committed to making the town better.
We need to bring everyone else along with us.
Mike Ashley put it bluntly to a Commons committee, calling for more park and ride, and free parking; promoting click and collect. He has also managed to knock down store rents