Support Your High Street Campaign
The Welsh Government has just launched their ‘Support Your High Street’ campaign, to inspire business owners and the public to rediscover the advantages of shopping in their neighbourhood. The spirit of the campaign in reintegrating high streets back into the hearts of our daily lives and the ideas suggested by the Welsh Government are applicable throughout the UK. The vision is all encompassing. High streets may be in decline, but over half of all the jobs in London are situated on the city’s high streets and this trend is found in many cities and towns. In Wales, the aim is to regenerate communities by helping to build a healthy local economy with improved wellbeing for all.
Consequently, this week many businesses across Wales are holding events on their high street to encourage customers to discover the benefits of shopping locally and hopefully this enthusiasm will continue. Suggestions from the Welsh Government include asking local students to dress shop windows, providing entertainment to draw the public into the high streets and offering customers discounts once they are there.
The Welsh Government has provided a document outlining various ideas for activities and events to bring some vibrancy back into high streets. Retail outlets can pull together to organise joint ventures such as a carnival or a memory wall with the public’s historical experiences surrounding their high street. Individual businesses can focus on their own shop such as creating ‘live’ window displays where people rather than mannequins model products.
Golly Slater have developed the PR campaign and are highlighting innovative ideas and schemes regarding the ‘Support Your High Street’ crusade. They can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org with any newsworthy stories. Furthermore, we can all contribute by posting #supporthighstreets on social media.
The various events taking place this week are extremely positive, but market forces need a little help if we are to reverse the socio-economic and physical degeneration of high streets. The latter revolves around bricks and mortar, so maintenance of all types of buildings is integral to sustaining growth. The appearance of a high street does affect the perception of visitors and it is make or break time for many stores. Imaginative use of colour on metal frameworks, interesting signage and murals on walls can all help breath life back into an area.
This process isn’t simply about attracting customers into outlets, it’s also about protecting the physical premises themselves to increase their longevity which saves money in the long run. Entertainment and promotions will increase the footfall in our high streets, but this will be hindered by retail outlets that fail to attract customers. If a shop front has been repainted and is seen to be in good condition then the public are much more likely to step inside and continue to frequent it.
If other retailers follow suit, a whole street can be lifted making it an attractive destination for people.
On a wider scale, town centres are constantly under threat by the continued growth of online purchasing and out of town retail centres which lack diversity. It is important to bring more of an assortment of brands back into high streets rather than perpetuating ‘clone towns’ where a high proportion of stores are national chains.
Unfortunately, high business rates have crippled individual, small businesses in recent years, but some positive measures came into effect in April this year including a £1000 discount for small outlets. The UK Government has also started to address parking issues around high streets and to lift some planning restrictions to enable landlords to use their empty properties more effectively. There is scope here for pop up shops and general flexibility in how spaces are used. The leisure, services as well as the retail industry all have a role to play and the Support Your High Street Campaign is a positive force in the changing face of our town centres.