Saving the High Street may mean focusing on improving the skills of the British workforce. The think tank Centre for Cities has suggested that reviving the retail sector is something that can be done by upskilling people so that better jobs can be created, leading to increased spending power.
Boosting local economies is an important factor in keeping retail businesses on the High Street open and interventions are needed in order to do this. The research has questioned the real impact that online shopping has had on brick and mortar shops, pointing to thriving retail sectors in more affluent areas such as Cambridge as proof. While online shopping has changed the way that people shop, it is not what has kept people from the High Street.
The Centre for Cities has suggested that the government should also focus on bringing premium office space to these areas and encourage more food and leisure options for consumers. These changes, along with improving the workforce’s skills, is something that could take years to implement and even longer to see the benefits. However, it does suggest that the statistics of closures on the High Street are not all doom and gloom.
While lowering business rates is sometimes a solution jumped on by policymakers, the study points out that this is of no use in the long term. Of concern is the abundance of low-skilled jobs that are coupled with limited spending power. Focusing on businesses that bring in increased employment and higher-skilled jobs is vital, says the study.
It is important that retail on the High Street is able to adapt to the changing demands of consumers, but it is also necessary that consumers are able to afford what is offered to them. The health of a UK city’s High Street is not the driver of economic activity but, rather, an indication of its attractiveness to businesses. More jobs would increase footfall and improve sales.
In London, areas like Canary Warf have relatively healthy retail sectors, driven by the multiple people driven there for work every day. The numerous offices are able to provide customers for the High Street services there.
The study, therefore, offers policymakers insight into how to turn vacancy rates around, and it’s by not focusing on them! Providing incentives for investment and enticing businesses to the area is the way to get feet onto the High Street and ready to spend money.