Retail firms 'at risk of failure'


empty shops

More than 20,000 independent retail firms are at risk of failure in Britain's flagging high streets, a report is expected to warn this week.

The alternative review into the high street by Bill Grimsey, the former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland, will reportedly lay bare a "deep decline" across many retail centres in the UK.

Mr Grimsey's self-funded report - due to be presented at a House of Commons reception on Wednesday - is set to call for a minister for high streets and say that town retail centres will need to incorporate education, arts, residential, leisure and technology facilities as part of a major overhaul.

It is understood Mr Grimsey will warn that 47% of retail firms are in financial difficulty and around a quarter of those are likely to fail in the next three years, also putting strain on their suppliers.
Previous reviews such as the government-commissioned review by retail guru Mary Portas to revive struggling high streets are too "nostalgic", he will reportedly say.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Grimsey said: "It simply isn't good enough to just wring our hands and reminisce about the good old days on the high street."

Ms Portas will appear before the Communities and Local Government select committee tomorrow to discuss her review, which was completed more than 18 months ago and included recommendations such as setting up 27 "Portas Pilots" that shared £2.3 million of funding.

A £10 million High Street Innovation Fund was also set up to help councils with the highest incidence of empty properties and those most affected by the 2011 riots.

But Mr Grimsey has been a vocal critic of the Portas Review, saying earlier this summer it is just " fiddling in the margins"

"We need to get serious about the high street and look at a complete solution to the challenges it faces," he said at the time.

A Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Although we have not seen the report we welcome contributions to the debate on the future of high streets.

"This Government has already put in place a wide range of measures to help towns manage the change in their high streets - we have lifted planning restrictions to bring more housing to the high street, cut business rates for thousands of small businesses and scrapped Whitehall guidance that pushed for higher parking charges."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles also announced that experts will train and mentor leaders of 350 "town teams" across the country - set up in the wake of the Portas Review - on ways to adapt high streets to changing consumer behaviour.

Workshops will be provided by advisers from organisations such as the Association of Town and City Management, Centre for Local Economic Strategies and Business in the Community.

© 2013 Press Association

High Street casualties

High Street casualties