Regenerating the High Street
- Author Robert Micallef
- Published October 3, 2023
- Word count 1,158
I believe in the High Street.
A successful high street should be the hub of life and a source of local pride.
A struggling high street can give a whole area a depressed feeling.
While it is easy to give up on these areas or focus on redeveloping them into new housing hubs or similar ideas, I for one believe the High Street can be saved.
Here are my Top 10 thoughts on saving the High Street and Towns in general.
- Be steered by local people instead of by available grants.
Yes the world is changing, maybe faster than we'd like or faster than we can keep up. How people shop from chain stores has changed. 30% of non-food purchasing is now online. But while people are falling out of love with traditional big retail, the same people want human environments and contact, local authenticity and useful experiences. From food to fashion to technology, done right local high streets and town centres of all varieties will still create the energy that we’re all attracted to.
While it is easy to be steered by grant funding it is important to listen to what local people want/need and find ways to incorporate that into the local environment. There is no point in bragging about a grant for a new hot desk centre and artistic space if the community is indicating they are desperate for something different.
Listen and act, question and adapt, launch and learn, then repeat all the steps again.
- Connect with the whole community
To be a successful high street requires smart innovative leadership and creative partnerships - between local business, local community and councils. Who leads is less important than that it happens.
Engage with younger audiences, as well as those who shout loudest or are more vocal in local affairs.
Don't see digital as the enemy or problem, the younger generation (the next generation of spenders) can be the best at generating out of the box ideas that create new thinking and help generate footfall and income.
- Be inspired by local heritage
Where you live is part of your identity. And we all want to feel proud of where we live. Leverage the unique local heritage of your area to create a motivating experience. Use this to identify locally inspired innovation or commercialisation.
Every local angle can be used such as your connection to history, your role as a seaside town, your location, local landmarks, local artists, writers, innovators or businesses.
Every town is different, which means every town has the potential to tell a story that drives authentic local experiences. These experiences are what will bring people to your town.
- It's not just about the money
The end goal is should be about how people feel, but the metrics matter.
3 simple measures can be used.
Footfall - giving people as many reasons as possible to be in the high street often, and making it easy to get there.
Dwell time - focus on creating people-centred, pleasant environments, and encourage innovation that makes you want to stay.
Spend - Give support to businesses to improve their offer and enable the best chance of commercial success, this can be anything from making it easier for start ups to access space, a rolling calendar of pop up stores or themed markets.
- Work with landlords
Successful high streets need landlords to do their bit. Maintaining property outside and in, and being flexible to fill space. While absentee owners is an issue almost everywhere, tracking them down and bringing them on board can pay huge dividends.
Working in partnership to match space to retailers and retailers to space is to the benefit of everyone. Someone needs to lead and own this key challenge to a successful conclusion.
- View empty space as an opportunity
Boarded up shops don’t look good.
Local projects to use shop windows as a creative canvas while a new tenant is being found can create footfall.
It could be view new artwork, themed activity such as a treasure hunt or maybe a historical photo archive to remind people of what the high street used to be like.
Again listen to local people who will be able to supply idea after idea.
- Innovate community assets
I recently visited Chester and came across Storyhouse which is an old Cinema re-created as a library, café and theatre. The library is open from early morning till late in the evening. It’s integrated with a café and creative hub so activity is all around you.
Mixed use thinking can attract a wide mix of people at different times across the whole week. Increasing footfall into a town by creative use of community assets can bring a new energy after all innovation isn’t just for the commercial sector.
- Ensure planning is joined up
Shops are only one reason to go to the high street.
Ensure service providers such as post offices, banks and ticket offices are not allowed to leave.
Where possible, councils should seek to locate public assets nearby - such as libraries and even council offices.
While a reduction in retail space is necessary in some places, ensure that shops aren’t allowed to all become residential, if you don't then your pave the way for the High Street to completely die and in turn give less of a reason to visit your town.
It is also important to remember in areas with large populations of elderly or poverty that they cannot easily go elsewhere and why should they?
- Investors can be better than grants
I know I have said it before but I'll say it again it is easy to be led in what you do and when by grants available. While these grants are vital and can make a huge difference, the average project funded by a grant will take five years to come to fruition.
The need to track down investors into the community is important, these people can invest in closed community buildings allowing them to open their doors again, they can invest in revitalising property make it fit for purpose or into creating new developments that add to the community.
It again isn't about who is leading on finding these people as long as someone is doing it. They don't come looking for you.
- Don’t wait to create momentum
Success is contagious.
It only takes a good baker, then a good butcher and people start talking. Councils should capitalise on these success stories, publicising them and ensuring they feel supported.
Making sure that litter is cleared, that parking is enforced, anti social behaviour is tackled and then people will start to spend more time, more money and encourage others to do the same.
What about launching an annual local awards for the business/retail community voted for by the public?
Every little helps, I hope that this article will give pause for thought, inspiration to others and maybe action by a few.
I have 35 years experience across multiple industries both big and small, including bricks and mortar businesses, internet retailers both start up/established, wholesalers/distributors, entertainment, charity and public sector.
Bob@inperspectiveconsultants.com or visit my site at https://inperspectiveconsultants.com/Article source: https://articlebiz.com
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