One of the most visible signs of recession is the number of empty shops. The British Retail Consortium report that one in eight shops are now vacant – twice as many as a year ago. The figure is expected to rise from 12.5% to 15%. Even during economic growth the small shops were finding conditions tough as more of us are shopping via the internet or at supermarkets.
The BRC calls on the Government to abandon the business rates hike. The report also calls for neighbourhood policing to include business crime as a key priority. Parking policy should reflect the need to attract customers to the high street. Barnet Council dramatically cut it parking charges for a temporary period over Christmas last year. It lost the Council around £170,000 in revenue but was considered effective in boosting local shops.
"Damaged property and street scape must be restored as quickly as possible." A good point. A Council delaying in taking enforcement action on a derelict site can allow an area to be dragged down.
Of course the removal of graffiti and flytipping is important. Sometimes these are left unreported. Shop keepers could help by ringing the Council.
The report stresses that the distinctiveness of town centres is an asset not an impediment. The advantages of "heritage features or natural surroundings." New developments should seek to maintain or restore traditional distinctiveness rather than represent a drift towards homogeneity. Forwards into the past.
More jollity is called for. A number of case studies of festivals and themed markets proving a success are included. The tone is not entirely downbeat. We can remain a nation of shopkeepers it concludes.