High streets are not in decline, they are evolving. The truth is that this is not a new phenomenon with the high street changing and evolving over time to reflect new consumer behaviours. It is true that the changes and challenges we see today are perhaps more extreme than ever before, but this does not mean that they cannot be overcome.
Achieving this is vital for small businesses as so many occupy our high streets – our stats show that just over one third of small businesses located on or next to the high street (34%). These businesses are facing a perfect storm of spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents. On top of this, high parking charges, poor infrastructure and the loss of vital banking services, have added to the woes of small businesses.
High streets aren’t just about retail economics. More and more they are becoming a part of our social fabric, a place where careers start and people meet, rather than just economic centres. The growth of the service economy has also left its impact on our high street, with businesses evolving beyond the buying and selling of goods, to include new services and experiences attached to perhaps more traditional roles on the high street. Therefore, when we lose a high street, we lose something more than just a few local shops.
No individual policy can ‘save’ the high street, both national governments and local governments have their part to play in resolving some of the bigger challenges facing high streets. We need both levels of government to come together to ensure that our high streets don’t just survive but thrive.
Why it's important
Michael Weedon, Chair of FSB's Retail and High Street Policy Unit, outlines the challenges facing our high streets.
Podcast: FSB's head of media, Alan Soady speaks to Michael Weedon about business rates and the rise of online shopping. Alan also chats with some small business owners and members of FSB’s policy and public affairs team to discuss what Government has to do to help businesses in the future.
More than 50,000 retail jobs are going or have gone from big stores this year alone. Small shops are in the thick of this. They are vital to the health of our town centres. Many are finding it difficult, some too difficult, to stay in business.