Leading retailers have weighed in to support the Business in the Community’s (BITC) scheme to reinvigorate the UK’s failing high streets.
The High Street Champions scheme will initially focus on 27 towns earmarked by television retail expert Mary Portas as targets for regeneration.
Portas said “High streets are the heartbeats of our towns – they bring a web of security, a sense of belonging and vital community services to a place. When they decline, the fabric of a place can decline with it.”
However, Portas warns that recovery will be a slow process – “No one said the regeneration of high streets would be easy, there are no quick fixes, it takes teamwork with all stakeholders working to a common goal.”
Boots UK, The Co-operative Group, JD Wetherspoon, Lloyds Banking Group, Marks & Spencer, Wilkinsons and Post Office have all signed up to the scheme and have been matched with Pilot Towns.
The initiative will involve senior representatives from retailers working in cooperation with local authorities and communities to provide focused support to attract new businesses, shops and services to town centres.
Recent analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Local Data Company found that the net reduction in the number of chain stores in UK high streets rose from 174 closures in 2011 to 1,779 in 2012.
Alex Gourlay, chairman of BITC’s High Streets Taskforce, said: “We believe in the importance of strong local high streets as a key driver for the future of retail in the UK.”