NEWS

Grimsey Review 2 says “high streets must stop relying on retail”

Published on: 4th July 2018

The report predicts that the number of empty shops could rise to 100,000 within a decade.

The crisis on UK high streets could leave 100,000 shops empty within a decade, according to an independent review that argues struggling retailers should no longer be relied upon to prop up ailing town centres.

As reported by The Guardian, The Grimsey Review 2 makes a series of recommendations including an overhaul of the business rates system and a ban on out-of-town developments. It predicts nearly 70,000 high street jobs will disappear this year.

Bill Grimsey, the former Wickes and Iceland chief executive who first looked at ways to revive the high street in an influential 2013 review, commented: “There is no point clinging to a sentimental vision of the past. We have to accept that there is already too much retail space in the UK and that bricks and mortar retailing can no longer be the anchor for thriving high streets and town centres.”

The report estimates that 28,000 retail jobs have disappeared in 2018 and a further 40,000 are predicted to go by the end of the year.

Town centres should be reinvigorated by focusing on alternatives to retail including housing, leisure, entertainment, education, arts and commercial office space, according to the report.

The highest rate of retail failures and store closures since the financial crisis was recorded in the first six months of 2018, and there is no sign of a let up as consumers rein in spending on clothing and household goods and, when they do spend, increasingly shop online.

The struggling House of Fraser department store chain said last month it was closing more than half its UK stores with the loss of 6,000 jobs. The list of high street casualties also includes discount chain Poundworld, Maplin and Toys R Us, which have all ceased trading.

The report says business rates have contributed to the high street decline with last year’s revaluation adding to the pain felt by half a million shopkeepers, pubs and restaurants.

Bill added: “There is no confidence in business rates. It is accelerating shop closures in many towns and is an outdated and unfair tax. It is no exaggeration to say that unless drastic action is taken, things are going to get worse.”

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