Larger retailers play a crucial role in national and local economies and should be given adequate government support, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC) Chairman Luke Mayhew.
In an address to retail industry delegates at today’s BRC Retail Symposium, the outgoing Chairman will say that the growth of multiples in the UK can help revitalise town centres and help other smaller businesses thrive.
His comments come after the government’s decision to appoint TV celebrity Mary Portas to undertake a review of British high streets following years of decline that has resulted in a significant increase in shop vacancies and a number of long-running businesses, such as Woolworths, closing down.
Many people have pointed the finger at the rapid expansion of grocery multiples and other large retailers, often based in out-of-town locations, as one of the main reasons for the demise of the high street. But Mayhew sees it differently.
“We should celebrate small and independent shops, but we should also appreciate large and multiple retailers, who often anchor our high streets and bring the footfall so desperately needed,” he said.
“They have managed to open new stores, attract investment and create jobs despite the downturn. To regard the success of these large national businesses as in some way sinister is ridiculous.”
Mayhew supports the appointment of Portas but he says he will advise the government that the review must focus on the structural and political challenges facing many local high streets.
According to the BRC the three main priorities are; keeping costs down, particularly in relation to property & planning; improving transport & parking; and investing & proactively managing town centres.
It was announced last week that Mayhew will be stepping down from his current role with the BRC this summer to be replaced by outgoing Debenhams CEO Rob Templeman in October.
Templeman himself comes from a background of working at multiple retailers, having been CEO at Halfords, Homebase Group and Harveys Furnishing prior to taking the top job at Debenhams.