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Mary Portas publishes blueprint for High Street renewal

December 13 2011

Mary Portas publishes blueprint for High Street renewal
Retail marketing consultant, Mary Portas, has published a long awaited report into the future of Britain’s High Streets with a warning that many could be lost altogether unless shops and councils collaborate on regeneration.

In all 28 recommendations are set out in the report; which include cutting red tape for those seeking to set up market stalls and relaxing restrictions on night time deliveries.

These are seen as vital to combat the growing threat posed by the internet, supermarkets and out of town shopping - although Portas has ruled out a moratorium on out of town developments, or a tax on their parking.

Instead Portas wants to see cheap parking introduced in our High Street’s with local areas given the freedom to pursue individual specialisms; such as smaller boutique stores, emphasis on culture, or facilities for older people.

Speaking to the BBC Portas said: “Our model for the High Street today is the same as it was in the sixties.

“What I’m proposing is that we look at our High Street as a multifunctional social and shopping High Street so that we create footfall on the High Street for uses other than shopping.

“Can you imagine if we put our gyms onto the High Street, places where people normally go out of town for? What you then do is start to get a social hub happening and what follows on then is retail and businesses who want to cater to those people.

“I want to give an alternative that actually has a meaning for locals. I’ve met and spoken to people up and down the country and they’ve told me ‘I want to shop locally’, ‘I want to meet friends locally’… but it’s not happened.”

Already the report has sparked criticism from councils which claim they have not been consulted. Peter Box, of the Local Government Association, said: "Councils play a crucial role in growing local economies and improving High Streets and need to be suitably consulted if they are to achieve this. We urge Mary Portas to enter discussions with councils on how they can boost local High Streets."

But Portas explained: “If we just left it to councils, who are short on funds and who have enough on their plate, they are likely to be looking for short term cashflow coming in. Therefore some things which are not right will come on the High Street which community leaders later say they don’t want.    

“Therefore I’ve looked at how you create ‘town teams’ where you bring all the people together. When you think of the High Street they are civic spaces, not private spaces, and therefore as customers we should stop being so passive and start being co-creators with the councils, with the landlords, with the retailers and with the businesses.”

Caroline Kendal, director and founder of childrenswear website, commented: "When online shopping came into being, the high street was always bound to take a hit. However, while the decline of British high streets is in part due to competition from online retailers, as well as the recession, shopkeepers' failure to adapt and embrace changing shopping habits and use technology is also to blame.

"One of the main issues that deters shoppers from the high street is long queues. High street shops should be looking at ways customers can pay for their purchases more quickly, dramatically slashing queuing time in store and smoothing the shopping process.

"The technology is there but retailers aren't using it.

"Mobile phone manufacturers have already started integrating NFC technology into smartphones so consumers will eventually be able to make swift in-store financial transactions via their phones. If retailers harness modern technology in the same way online retailers have, then there is hope for the high street."


#1 Posted by Robert on 13 Dec 2011 at 11:10 AM
Renew High Streets by liberal use of grocers' apostrophes.
#2 Posted by Neil on 13 Dec 2011 at 11:13 AM
This site really needs a proof-reader! S-P-G
Martin W. Jordan
#3 Posted by Martin W. Jordan on 13 Dec 2011 at 11:41 AM
Regen will be hampered if they do what she says then just allow yet another Tesco Express to appear 500yds away from the next one...
#4 Posted by Stuart on 13 Dec 2011 at 12:28 PM
Thank goodness we have Mary, Wayne and Kev sorting things out for us.
#5 Posted by VitruviusAteMyHamster on 13 Dec 2011 at 13:04 PM
Here's a suggestion for improving town centres. Ban the out of town malls from providing free buses that whisk the punters away every 10 minutes. Better yet, stop giving planning consent to gas guzzling anti-urban megamalls in the first place.
#6 Posted by Sven on 13 Dec 2011 at 13:53 PM
The problems are nothing to do with Tesco or out of town shopping.

I have watched my local high street be decimated over the last two decades. The reason is very simple, and whether one wants to blame charity shops, parking, out-of-town centres or many of the other reasons given below, they all lead back to one place: local and national government.

High Streets are the victims of the usual inept management that we see almost everywhere else in the public sector. The people who currently run them have no idea and are usually driven by political dogma. So we have seen the socialisation of the high street: lots of empty (free) disabled parking spaces but little or nothing for able-bodies people; and cars banned from most central areas, but taxis and buses clogging the streets pumping out fumes. So what we have seen is a drift towards the old, infirm and unemployed inhabiting the high streets whilst busy working people avoid them. That makes the High street unpleasant to visit - no matter how much you tart up a place if it is full of chavs, families with money are not going to go to it.
#7 Posted by GracieFields on 13 Dec 2011 at 14:04 PM
Local Councils should be able to control, via their Planning Dept, any plans for shopping malls and Express Supermarkets from putting down roots within 2miles from any High Street.
#8 Posted by Hatherby on 14 Dec 2011 at 09:59 AM
@Sven- you are an idiot.
#9 Posted by Sven on 14 Dec 2011 at 21:13 PM
@Hatherby - try adding to the debate instead of trying to communicate like a grub. Go completely and hideously away.
#10 Posted by James on 15 Dec 2011 at 07:18 AM
@Sven - you deserve a medal in my opinion
and so does Jerermy Clarkson for that matter
keep telling it like it is
#11 Posted by Ross on 20 Dec 2011 at 13:14 PM
Yes Yes…Blame the public sector, because it is them that cause all the issues. I don’t remember a Council ever actively requesting that major supermarkets site their developments within or out with the high street. Nor have the public sector rigorously fought and ultimately won appears against refusals for large out of centre shopping malls. I believe these sorts of things sit right in the lap of the private sector. Until such time the private sector, by that I mean developers, architects, planning consultants, stop taking it up the arse from their clients and start taking a little more professional responsibility for their actions, we are all royally buggered.

And come on Sven, because cars are generally banned from the city centre does that really have an impact? Christ, what has civilisation done without 4x4’s until the 21st Century. Oh that’s right, got off their arses and walked or got some sort of public transport. Last time I checked, Glasgow city centre is pretty much pedestrianised but by god it’s doing well. Compare that to Edinburgh which is a complete bloody disaster.
david nimmo
#12 Posted by david nimmo on 21 Dec 2011 at 13:35 PM
Come now, boys, the traditional High Street has suffered both from the development of out of town retail centres, which are a popular inevitability, and from ill considered interventions by local authorities, many carried out during the Brave new World modernist era of the 60's and 70's. The latter have also included gratuitous pedestrianisation schemes and bogus 'civic pride' schemes seemingly given to junior local authority architects to cut their teeth on. It is also naive to expect that the likes of Tesco are going to accept strategic advice from their architects. There has been a lack of clarity about how major retail units can be integrated with existing High Street environments, and that is a Planning issue, which is a public sector responsibility is it not? The reality is that shopping centres are embryonic towns, while town administrations should realise that they are running shopping centres, and be more professional about it. As to getting people out of their cars, Henry Ford gave freedom to the masses, among whom I include myself, and taking it back is going to be both unpopular and fascist. If public transport is to be part of the answer it has to be good, and I think that we can legitimately ask why exactly good public transport appears to be so prohibitive. Mary Portas' gambit is positive, because it at least generates some discussion.

The problem, imho anyway, is deeper. When many of these towns had local industries there was both local focus and pride. As a result there were truly world class people, real characters, who operated locally. With de-industrialisation, globalisation and communication technology we have lost local focus. But this has also been a matter of choice. I also happen to think that the scale of local authorities is still far too big, and small towns, with committees involving local businesses, should have far more responsibility for running local affairs. Big local authorities are just another opportunity for megalomania, and we have plenty of that to deal with in our banks and politicians as it is. You are only going to get local industry if you are cost competitive, and this applies to every sector. They build ships in Germany. We can build them here. Jimmy Reid thought so, and for once I agree with him.

david nimmo
#13 Posted by david nimmo on 22 Dec 2011 at 09:46 AM
And lest you think that I 'have it in for local authorities, shopping centre managements are equally lacking in the necessary professional skills to run small towns. As for the suggestion of Tesco offering mentoring to local businesses, maybe I am cynical, but I really don't see that working as intended. I expect that Tesco would suggest that they set up a 'High Street' in one of their aisles. if you genuinely expect the big multis to change from profit centred behemoths into social enterprises, you may be the kind of person who thinks that the boys from the local RBS, including the impressive looking bloke in the Air Sea Rescue costume are coming round to do your granny's garden, or that Stephen Hester is going to ask you to join his private box at Murrayfield for the Six Nations.

As for Sir Terry Leahy being knighted for services to the retail industry, all credit to him as a businessman, but it has to be one of the most notable abuses of the orders of chivalry since the Sack of Constantinople.

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