UK: Mary Portas reveals high street retail review
Mary Portas, the retail expert dubbed “queen of shops” by British television, today (13 December) released 28 recommendations on how to breathe life back into the UK's struggling high streets.
The government-commissioned review is part of wider plans to stimulate strong and sustainable growth across the country.
Portas' proposals focus on ways of getting town centres running like businesses, and levelling the playing field for smaller operators against out-of town malls by ensuring a strong 'town centre first' approach in planning. She is also recommending a better definition of landlords' roles and responsibilities, and giving communities a greater say in how their high streets are run.
The report recommends a range of planning policy incentives along with a new tax on car parks in out-of-town malls, as well as free parking in town centres to get consumers back onto the high street.
She explains that shoppers have been shifting away from town centres towards out-of-town retail and entertainment developments like Westfield in London. Less than half of UK retail spending is on high streets, and the figure is falling, according to statistics from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Portas also highlights her concerns at the expansion of the country's major supermarkets into selling "all manner of things that people used to buy on the high street", with these retailers now allocating more than one-third of their space to non-food sales.
Commenting on the report, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The high street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.
"I am delighted that Mary Portas has produced such a clear vision on how we can create vibrant and diverse town centres and breathe life back into our high streets."
The government is set to review Portas' recommendations and will publish its response next spring.
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