Town shops ‘must be ready for challenges’ - The Evesham Observer

Town shops ‘must be ready for challenges’

A RETAIL expert has told council bosses and business owners that high streets like Evesham and Pershore’s needed to ‘be brave and move with the times’ to survive.

Speaking at a Retail Seminar hosted by Wychavon District Council, Jackie Sadek, Chief Executive of UK Regeneration, said in addition to shops, the modern day high street should encompass elements of leisure, health, education and anything else that would bring people in.

High streets, she said, needed to find their place in the 21st century.

At last Friday’s event, there were representatives from South Worcestershire councils, including Wychavon, Malvern Hills District and Worcester City.

They joined a panel of experts to come up with a policy that would help high streets deal with changing consumer habits.

An insight was also given into the Government’s £675million Future High Streets funding pot which will helps areas adapt to change.

Ms Sadek said: “The tectonic plates of retail are shifting and the future of our town centres will not be retail alone but a mix of uses.

“It’s about experiences, because experiences can’t be bought online.

“We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

“We have to be brave in this new world.”

Ms Sadek was part of the team which produced the Grimsey Reviews – two landmark reports which promoted a radical new blueprint for high streets.

Matthew Hopkinson – another author of the reports and founder of data company Didobi – said there were just too many shops across the UK and, despite falling demand, 6.5million sq ft of new retail space had been created in the last five years.

He urged councils to look at the role high streets played in both providing somewhere to attract the younger generations while tackling social isolation among a rapidly ageing population.

Coun Bradley Thomas, Wychavon District Council leader, said: “We know our town centres are under pressure but the need for change represents a huge opportunity to reinvent them as social hubs our communities can revolve around not just a place to buy goods and services.”

What do you think? E-mail your views to [email protected]

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