July 31, 2009 11 Comments
How many reports do we need to read about saving the High Street, before some sensible action that might actually work takes place. Having worked for a High Street retailer who faced the Out and Edge of Town Threat, I saw first hand some of the things that could be done to help revitalise our city and town centres.
The dash to Out of Town shopping happened under a Tory Government. Retailers moved to premises out of town with free parking that were convenient to shoppers with cars. Today those retail outlets have effectively become localised monopolies. So you will get your Tesco or other massive retailer out of town, and because the planning system has clamped down on these types of development – no other retailer can compete in that geographical location. Not a good situation.
Now the retailer I worked for was primarily high street based. We recognised that people now went shopping in their car as a general rule. The number of people who say they should support their local baker, butcher and local shop, yet don’t because it’s easy to do a one stop shop at a supermarket, in a car, far outweigh those who follow through their warm words and support local shops.
We always used to us the example of a tube of toothpaste. Lets say it costs the same price in both an out of town and town centre shop. Price isn’t an issue is it? Well it is when you have to pay £2.00 to park in town yet out of town it’s free. That tube of toothpaste is now £2.00 more in a town centre location.
Where I live, it used to be free to park on a Sunday. Not many shops were open, but generally most Sundays we would pop into town, by a paperm have a copy and a browse. They changed the pricing (in Newark). The cost to park on a Sunday is the same as a weekday. So what do we d. We drive all the way to Lincoln, where parking still costs – but there is much more choice.
Then you can look at Chesterfield where I was born. Parking also used to be free – but they have now introduced a charge – £1 all day. So a nominal fee. So I will shop there.
Three towns with three different parking structures and they all impact and where I spend my money. I don’t go into my local town centre on a Sunday, as they don’t have the sense to introduce a charging sytem that either is discounted on a Sunday or where (like some places) if you pay to park you can get it knocked off local purchases. I drive to Lincol where they do charge knowing there is lots more choice and more things open, and I even go to Chesterfield where parking is a nominal fee.
Of the three town centres, my local one, in my estimation, has got it wrong, and is inflicting damage on itself. Yet the real threat to them all is I can drive to any out of town destination (Meadowhall) and there is no charge.
The answer isnt to charge for out of town spaces, but for town centres to realise that people have choices and if they are to compete they need to encourage people back into them – not push them away somewhere else.
Yes the High Street needs to be saved – but it needs to do something to save itself.