Networking in Surrey

Is Mary Portas really saving our high streets?

Mary Portas –The saviour of Britain’s High-streets?

Mary Portas conducted a review of the current state of high streets and town centres in the UK due to their great decline resulting from an ever increasing recession combined with the expansion of large international retailers and the progressive increase in online shopping and growing technology.

Many years ago the sole expectation of a high street was to provide basic needs as the heart of small towns and communities through the presence of small independent retailers, butchers, bakers and tailors; however high-streets are now required to provide ever increasing services and sources of entertainment for the general public in order to compete with these large corporations which a large majority fail to meet expectations. Mary Portas’s report concentrates on finding ways to increase their survival chances in order to save what was once cherished by this country and her vision to maintain them in the future.

               It has been found that the rate of vacancies amongst town centres has doubled within the past 2 years and retail spending is increasingly away from the high-streets and average yet popular shops that formerly flourished and thrived in the economic boom have begun to disappear throughout economic hardships, such as Woolworths, and in their place the rise of pound shops increasing in market share. Since 2000, town centre stores have fallen by almost 25,000 with talmost one in six shops currently standing vacant> As independent retail outlets close, they are not replaced and replenished by new independent businesses.

Additionally some large retailers require fewer shops with mobile purchasing and internet sales, it is thought that almost half of all retail sales within the last 7 years have been via e-commerce, with an estimate of over £40billion a year being spent over the internet and mobile devices.

           The large empire that supermarkets appear to be creating certainly adds fuel to the fire of the issues face by high-streets today. The large chain stores are no longer aimed at meeting grocery needs but are expanding into many areas such as clothing, stationary, home ware and books as well as Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s opening in-house opticians, dental surgeries, barbers and GP clinics providing a greater convenience when doing the weekly shop with almost everything at you desire in one place, decreasing the need to venture into town.

With the reducing need to be in the one hustle and bustle of town centres, it has also been found that the socialising aspect of shopping has disappeared along with human interaction and public contact once cherished several decades ago.


A few recommendations for improvement of high-streets


  • Remove excessive council regulations thereby allowing more people to become market traders.
  • Allow local authorities to grant business concession to new and small local businesses
  • The implementation of controlled free parking schemes in town centres and a new parking league table
  • Put in place town teams responsible for keeping high-streets safe and attractive
  • Large retailers should support and mentor local and independent retailers
  • Promote the inclusion of high streets proposals in neighbourhood plans and run campaigns to encourage involvement of these plans.
  • Insisting developers make a financial contribution to ensure the voice of local communities in planning systems
  • Support imaginative community use of empty properties through Community Right to Buy /Try schemes.

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