“Sidmouth town centre still has a strong retail future” [Vince Page]
“The future high street’s purpose will be so much more than just shopping… New attractive spaces will be designed for communities to meet the demand for safe and social experiences.” [Forbes magazine]
“Places need to understand their function and the things that draw people in to the town centres. To reinvigorate them, we need what you might call a Mars bar approach; building town centres which aren’t just about buying stuff, but places you can “work, rest and play”. [Professor Cathy Parker lead, High Streets Task Force]
Two years ago, as we were coming out of the worst of the pandemic, there was real concern for the future of our high streets:
It’s well known that retailers on the high street have been suffering for quite some time, well before the effects of the pandemic took hold. An ONS report found that in the three years leading up to 2018, retail employment was already in decline across all UK regions… Reimagining The Future Of The High Street
The same piece looked to the future – with a focus on ‘local’ and going beyond ‘shopping’:
Ultimately it is down to the consumer and we need to think differently about what we purchase. When you buy local, you are supporting your community, keeping the money where the most effective change can be seen. The high street needn’t die. This could be the rebirth of independents who curate and cultivate new products, goods and services.
With the amount of chaos and change afflicting towns and cities around the world, the high street needs to be a place of balance. A well-planned mix of housing for residents, modern office spaces and varied hospitality and retail experiences will revitalise our once busy town centres, even if they look different from what we are used to. The future high street’s purpose will be so much more than just shopping. With clear communication between communities, local authorities and the private sector, new attractive spaces will be designed for communities to meet the demand for safe and social experiences.
And here’s a similar view from Sidmouth from Vince Page last month:
Luckily Sidmouth as a town doesn’t suffer as badly as some and for that we should all be grateful, but whichever way you look at it, things are changing, and whether you embrace the change or not, opportunities are presenting themselves, and if you have the business acumen to take advantage of those opportunities the current climate could prove to be to your benefit.
It is interesting to see that whilst many empty shops in some towns around the country are being converted back into flats and houses to provide conventional living accommodation, all the empty shops in Sidmouth remain as empty shops to let, which although currently may paint a rather gloomy picture, must be an encouraging sign on behalf of the landlords who always take a long term view on a property and obviously feel as though Sidmouth still has a strong retail future, which ultimately it has. I’m sure we all long for the days of endless sunshine where we watch the tourists wander down the high street embracing the town and all it has to offer, as businesspeople we have to ensure that it still has something to offer!
So, here are a few ideas on ‘reimagining the high street’ that have appeared on these pages the last couple of years:
And here’s a very creative piece of rethinking – the siting of a new NHS service in a former department store in Poole – and as ‘an example of sustainability’ too: SALUS – Article – Materials from Nightingale hospitals help build retail-based diagnostics centre
Ultimately, it’s about getting the mix right – from heritage and eateries creating an ‘atmosphere’, creating a ‘cafe-style urban renaissance‘, a place for ‘browsing around the numerous tiny boutiques‘: Reviving the high street: getting the mix right – Vision Group for Sidmouth
And there are indeed all sorts of ideas and examples for creating places where you can “work, rest and play”:
“Places need to understand their function and the things that draw people in to the town centres”. To reinvigorate them, we need what you might call a Mars bar approach; building town centres which aren’t just about buying stuff, but places you can “work, rest and play”.