Is Our High Street Worth Saving?

Margo Parker (Ukip) proposes ways to assist High Street retailers.

AS STORES cease trading, more and more we hear comments about, the recession, business rates, property rents, the Internet, et al.”It’s all of the above and more” The truth is that our High Streets are not worth saving in their present form. Harsh…well maybe, but our High Streets have failed because consumers don’t find it attractive to spend their time or their income there any more.
Let’s turn the question found the other way: should we try to change and save the High Street? And if the answer is ‘yes’, then and very importantly, what do we need to do to make this happen?

Let’s start by trying to level the playing field a bit.

Business Rates are unfair,  the online retailer has a huge advantage. A High Street retailer pays far more per square metre in Business Rates than his online competitor. To level things up, on line retailers should pay Business Rates based on warehouse/office areas, and /or turnover, or by some other measure, as a surcharge on their present Business Rates obligation.  Add to that the Corporate Tax avoidance schemes practiced by the “big boys” by moving taxable profit generated on sales here to low tax regimes located far from where the profit was made and the advantage in favour of the  online retailer is grossly unfair and we have gone along way to making that playing field more level.

In the retail scenario there are three players, all competing for the consumer’s disposable income and they are: Alum Rock

  1. The High Street Independent or Multiple retailer

  2. The Shopping Centre or retail Park

  3. The on line shop

 

  1. Has the advantage of convenience and service, more so for the Independents and smaller stores

  2. Larger stores offer free parking and probably  under cover shopping

  3. Offers any time shopping and perceived cheaper prices

 

The disadvantages for:

  1. are the difficulty of parking and it’s associated high cost

  2. The  lack of skilled service and advice and frequently high prices due to the high levels of Rents and service charges

For the on line retailer, it is the variable performance of the third party carriers leading to lost deadlines and the inability to guarantee time of day delivery.

The High Street Retailer is really up against it unless changes are made. The High Street’s big advantage is in the personal service aspect. Generally consumers are not comfortable buying blind without the benefit of some sort of advice often provided by bigger on line stores by a help line call centre with exasperatingly long winded and frequently difficult to understand language of the agent where English is not his or her mother tongue.

It’s all very well to say that our High Street’s experience is poor without suggesting a business model to make it better.

Consumers seem to like the convenience of 24 hour shopping on line, so why not let the appeal of the “net” be available from the High Street independent? It might well work like this: Each High Street store, individually or as a group has a web presence, which sooner than just a brochure site is a trading site which permits the customer to ask for help (please call me back). The website offers payment on line and collection from store or local delivery. No hanging around waiting for deliveries that may not take place as planned – the biggest disincentive to and on line shopping has been overcome. As for parking charges: 2 hours free sounds good, with the revenue lost by the local authority being made up for by the new “business on line business rate levy” as proposed in the earlier part of this article.

TescoSo what does our High Street store have to do? Well apart from setting up the on line template, there are lots to choose from and the discipline to spend the necessary time with a good quality web developer who will work with our retailer to ensure consumers can find the new store on the now highly populated web. A discipline to spend at least daily time keeping the contents of the site up to date and lastly making sure that local consumers know the site exists and that the new services offered, Callback advice and collect from store are effectively advertised.

Of course there is some cost involved in terms of time spent and set-up costs, The objective is to make the High Street relevant once more and to highlight the advantages of local shopping. That way our High Streets will be far more convenient and offer better services than those provided by competitors online, or in out-of- town centres and so ensure their own survival.

All views are those  of the Author

Follow me on Twitter @margotljparker

 

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