IWP Founding Partner Kate Hardcastle returned to Sky News Sunrise this morning for the daily newspaper review, alongside Sam Delaney. Now a regular on the show, stories included the debt crisis in Britain and a topic close to our hearts, the state of the UK High Streets. Video to follow shortly. Images below.
Contact Kate using the button below to discuss anything you’ve seen on the show, or to find out how we can help your business.
Number of empty high street shops increases as retailers that would once have expanded there move out of town
There is more bad news for the high street, with evidence that retailers including Next and Marks & Spencer as well as discount chains are steadily moving out of town.
In a blow to retail guru Mary Portas, who came up with a raft of recommendations to halt the decline of the high street last year, a report by Trevor Wood Associates shows the shift to out-of-town retail parks is gathering pace. The government has accepted most of the Portas recommendations and announced it will pump £10m into rundown high streets, but has come under fire for failing to back some of the hardest-hitting proposals. Portas said she would have liked greater central intervention in critical areas such as parking and the approval of new out-of-town developments.
While the number of empty shops on the high street is increasing, the retailers that would once have expanded there such as Next and Poundworld are moving out of town wherever possible, said Trevor Wood, who set up the retail warehousing database.
B&Q took the most out-of-town space last year, picking up 0.37m square feet, including many former Focus DIY units. Virtually every B&Q is out of town. Home and garden chain The Range came second, with 0.32m sq ft of space, followed by discount retailers B&M, Poundworld and Home Bargains.
A spate of administrations – such as Focus and TJ Hughes – and a slump in confidence among retailers led to an explosion in available shop space for a few years, but much of the out-of-town space has been snapped up by budget chains and some traditional retailers – partly due to there being fewer new developments.
While the vacancy rate in out-of-town retail parks remained at 9.2% at the end of last year, the same as in 2010, it was down from a peak of 11.8% at the height of the recession in mid-2009. It compares with a vacancy rate of 14.6% on the high street in February, the highest since the Local Data Company started the index in 2008.
The number of empty stores in retail parks that have open A1 planning permission (with no restrictions on what can be sold) has fallen, with a vacancy rate at 6.8% compared with 7.9% in 2010. Conversely, the availability of out-of-town shopping space only available to chains selling bulky goods – the traditional out-of-town retailers – has increased as these companies are not expanding.
For example, when Focus went under all its stores that had open planning permission were snapped up quite quickly – whereas those that were restricted to selling bulky goods remain on the market.
In percentage terms, Poundworld was the fastest-growing retailer out of town last year, opening 36 shops in retail parks, up 204%. Other retailers that are expanding away from the high street include Next, Pets at Home, Wickes, M&S, Toys R Us, Sports Direct and New Look. “They are taking opportunities where they can get them,” said Wood.
The out-of-town market, which was established to serve retailers that needed big warehouses and parking, is now dominated by traditional high street retailers benefiting from the ease of access and generally free parking not available on the high street.
There are few new developments in the pipeline. The report has identified 82 schemes likely to proceed before the end of 2018, which is up from 72 in 2010 – but nowhere near the the “glory days” of 2006 which saw 178 developments proposed, said Wood. Of those, 79 are now open or under construction, 26 have planning permission, 23 still await consent and 50 were scrapped.
Schemes include Mk1 in Milton Keynes built by the Crown Estate; a retail park at Prestatyn,north Wales, due to open later this year; a John Lewis at home and Waitrose scheme in Ipswich, which opens next year; and the Vanguard shopping park in York which has still to obtain planning permission.
Published on Saturday 7 April 2012
Yorkshire’s high streets need the support of local and national government, and must take action themselves to evolve, if they are to survive.
This was the view of retailer experts and commentators across the region.
From large-scale retail consultancy firms to independent traders, there is a consensus that England’s high streets can survive given the right backing and support.
Kate Hardcastle, partner at Yorkshire-based retail consultants Insight with Passion, is an enthusiastic champion of the high street.
She told the Yorkshire Post: “I do not agree that town centres should just be forgotten about. You cannot live in a community without a town centre.
“That said, shops do need to adapt and change.
“It is very much about listening to what the customer wants. Running a retail business in 2012 is very different to it was in 1992 and a lot has to be done to give retailers a fighting chance.
“Yes you might not be able to compete with Tesco, but that doesn’t mean you just put your head in the sand. It is good to be different.
“It doesn’t have to be the end just because there are more supermarkets. Businesses should take the opportunity to show that, as opposed to supermarkets. They can do their customers very well by showing how knowledgeable they are as butchers, bakers or whatever they work as.”
The British Retail Consortium said government had a role to play when it comes to supporting smaller businesses and that blaming supermarkets for taking trade was not an accurate assessment of the current climate.
A spokesman said: “Other factors such as pricing and access in terms of deliveries play a role too. Often there has been a failure over many years in town centres to keep them as safe attractive places.
“To become fixated on the idea that suburban out-of-town developments are to blame is missing the point.
“What we need is a really positive approach to revitalise town centres.”
Margaret Dale, part of the Keep Holmfirth Special group, is currently part of a campaign to prevent a Tesco being built on the outskirts of the town.
However Ms Dale said she and traders would welcome a supermarket in the town, provided it would complement the current retail offering.
“We have been absolutely clear that we are not against Tesco or against supermarkets,” she said.
“We would support a local development that was closer to the town centre and would not draw shoppers away from it.
“I live here and believe that this town has distinctive qualities. We need to build on what we have already and work on appropriate development to make sure the town has a vibrant future.”
She added that she and her organisation were keen to work with Tesco and had made efforts to hold discussions with the retailer on how best to pursue the situation, efforts which have remained fruitless.
Attempts to discuss the situation with Tesco proved fruitless.
Ms Dale said that if the development went ahead there was a “great likelihood that shops would have to close”.
“To quote Mary Portas: ‘We have sacrificed community for convenience’”.
However Brian Scaife, who run a butcher’s shop in Hornsea holds a different view.
A supermarket began trading in Hornsea two months ago and already the traders on the town’s high street are feeling the effects he said.
“I am now down to trading three days a week,” he said. “I am a pensioner and run the business for something to do. If I had a mortgage to pay this would not work out.
“I can compete with a supermarket on quality and on price but I cannot compete on convenience, and that is key to what they have to offer. They offer target offers which give you savings with one had and take it away with the other.
“Twenty years ago I had two full-time staff, as well as my wife and I, working here. Now it’s just myself and a woman who I give a few hours to, and that is only because the pet shop she was working at here closed down.
“There is no real future for the high street here.”
Government backs Portas high street plans
The government has today confirmed that it is accepting the vast majority of the recommendations made by Mary Portas last December on how to revive the British high street.
Many proposals made by the TV personality & PR professional, such as providing business rates discounts to small businesses, extending opening hours & clearing up dilapidated areas, cutting red-tape for high street traders, and reducing parking charges have been fully supported by the government.
In addition to the existing recommendations, Housing & Local Government Minister Grant Shapps has also announced that a number of new initiatives will be launched to help revive struggling town centres.
A £10 million High Street Innovation Fund will be set up to help bring empty shops back into use; a £1 million Future High Street X-Fund will be paid in a year’s time to a UK high street which introduces the most creative and effective initiatives; a Nation Market Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, will be introduced; and a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts is to be created.
Portas Pilots, a scheme whereby town centres from around the country are chosen to trial some of Portas’ ideas, will also be extended after massive interest following the first 12 pilots being launched last month.
Shapps commented: “Today, I’m accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas’s review – but I’m also going that one step further, offering a ‘Portas-Plus’ deal, with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their high streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again.
“Mary Portas’s review made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face. With Internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, they must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back.”
Although largely supportive of the plans put forward by Portas, there were several significant recommendations made by the star of TV show ‘Mary’s Bottom Line’ which have been rejected by the government.
The official response today stated that any change to business rates, and in particular changing the calculation from being based on the retail price index to the lower consumer price index, will not be considered until at least the end of the government’s deficit reduction agenda.
New large out-of-town developments will not need an ‘exceptional sign-off’ from the Secretary of State to proceed, as Portas had requested, banks will not be forced to sell empty properties which they fail to administer, and developers will not be required to fund local group’s challenging proposed construction.
Several of the key recommendations fall under the responsibility of local authorities rather than central government, but Shapps has said that he and his department fully back the introduction of more free parking in town centres, more concessions on business rates, and plans to allow local groups to have more control over high street ownership.
Martin Blackwell, CEO of the Association of Town Centre Management, said: “We all recognise that the high street in 10 or even five years will be radically different to that we see today.
“This Government’s approach, shown in the response to Mary’s report, is giving local communities the opportunity to shape the future High Street they want to see in their town.”