City centres over reliant on retail according to think tank

High street vacancy

City centres rely too heavily on retailers to drive footfall and should look to improve the area for other businesses to drive growth, according to new research.

Centre for Cities, an independent think tank, has said that we need to “reimagine” city centres and make them more appealing to other business sectors.

The first half of 2018 has seen the largest number of retail collapses since the height of the last financial crisis, and city centres in places like Newport and Blackpool now have the highest level of vacant shops across England and Wales.

To tackle this the think tank has suggested improving public realm sectors, making city centres nicer places to work and live, thus driving footfall for the struggline retail sector.

“Each day seems to bring a new crisis for the high street, but the answer is not to double down on the declining retail sector,” Centre for Cities’ chief executive Andrew Carter said.

“Instead, we need to reimagine struggling city centres as places where lots of different businesses can locate and create jobs – and where lots of people want to go to for a variety of reasons.”

GL Hearn’s planning director Giulia Bunting added: “There is much that cities and the government can do to help support and bolster retail such as business rates reform.

“We should be levelling the tax playing field for physical stores and online operators as well as showing real leadership and support for the re-invention of places and introducing more flexible platform to harness new opportunities for regeneration/repurposing.

“Our challenge is to work collaboratively with all parties to make the changes set out in this report to help to create proper mixed use places, which include retail in well designed, publicly accessible and attractive places.”

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