WE NEED action by the government, councils, communities and businesses to ease the high street crisis.
That is the message from the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses Mike Cherry.
He said: ‘With pressure from online competition, ever-increasing regulation, as well as spiralling business rates and sky-high rents, high street retailers are under the cosh like never before.
‘There’s no silver bullet to solve the problems these local businesses face though, and it will take action by both Government and local authorities, working with communities and businesses, to help ease these burdens.’
The news comes after The News and Johnston Press launched their national Love Your High Street campaign with the aim of focusing more attention on what can be done now to support small shops and businesses.
Mike also believes high streets need to change and keep up with what consumers want.
He added: ‘A healthy high street should be diverse – not just featuring retail but also hospitality, services like hairdressers as well as gyms and shared workspaces for the self-employed.’
The federation is also calling for business rates to be frozen from next April in a bid to help shops, pubs and restaurants.
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan is also on a mission to support local businesses in the city.
He said: ‘High streets are at the heart of the community, but they need our support to thrive.
‘That’s why I’ve launched my ‘support local’ campaign encouraging people to use smaller local businesses and boost our city’s economy. For every pound spent in a small business 63p gets reinvested in the local economy.
‘People’s pocket power is vital to sustaining high streets, but it’s not enough on its own. The Government needs to step up. I want to see ATM charges banned and serious business rate reform to make the system fit for the 21st century.
Retail and commercial expert MBE, Kate Hardcastle believes there are simple solutions to the problems faced by many retailers.
Kate said: ‘It was 2011 when the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, instructed Mary Portas to conduct a review of the UK high streets.
‘Soon eight years will have passed, the problems still exist and many feel frustrated that simple changes that could have made a difference have not happened.
‘There are obvious wins, like free parking (limited time allocation, i.e. 30 minutes and no return in two hours); accessibility (a lot of our high streets offer challenges for those who would rely on them the most); cleanliness, safe and hygienic public toilets and a review of rates for business owners.’
Kate added: ‘I would ensure a mechanic completed my car MOT, and a doctor cared for my family’s health needs.
‘I think it is time that we started to ensure some true experts were part of this evolution of the high street, and put the right plans in place. Before it really is too late.