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Retail expert Bill Grimsey restarts retail taskforce

Published on: March 13th, 2018

Ex-Wickes and Iceland boss is restarting a troubleshooting taskforce, saying its time to take stock of retail changes.

Retail tsar Bill Grimsey is to again lead a troubleshooting task force looking to revive Britain’s high streets after a string of collapses prompted fresh fears that town centres will become semi-derelict.

Bill, a retail veteran who previously headed up Wickes and Iceland, led an influential independent review back in 2013 but is to revisit the subject amid the failure of Maplin and Toys R Us.

Bill commented: “Five years on the high street continues to face big challenges and now is a good time to take stock of what has changed. It is time to get this subject back on everyone’s agenda otherwise we will continue to sleepwalk into the remainder of the 21st century.”

Over the last decade there has been a huge change in shopping habits in the UK with nearly £60b spent via phones and tablets in 2017 – a figure that equates to more than £1 in every £6 spent on the high street. The shift is boosting sales at the likes of Amazon, Asos and Boohoo, but forcing radical change on British towns and cities as huge swathes of physical retail space becomes redundant.

Matthew Hopkinson, founder of retail consultancy DataIntel who is one of six experts collaborating with Grimsey on a second instalment of the review, added: “Online has been a catalyst that has reinforced the fact that we have too many shops in the UK. Around 10% of the UK retail stock is surplus to requirements, which equates to about 50,000 stores.”

Although self-appointed, Bill’s original review was closely followed in Westminster. Among the recommendations of the Grimsey review was a business rates freeze but the government pressed on with last year’s revaluation, a move that has handed retailers facing huge bill increases in parts of the country where property prices have surged.

The updated review, to be published in the summer, will look at successful examples of retail regeneration projects and what more could be done to help local authorities cope with the structural changes in the retail sector.

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