GDR CEO Kate Ancketill appeared on BBC Breakfast this week to discuss the second Grimsey Review into the future of the UK high street. She agreed with the report’s vision of fewer and smaller tech-enhanced shops based in community-focused town centre hubs.
On Wednesday morning retail veteran Bill Grimsey revealed his hotly-anticipated second report on the future of the UK high street. The Grimsey Review 2 followed the theme of its 2013 predecessor by calling for community-focused spaces to replace closing retail units, a decrease in business rates and a ban on out-of-town developments.
“We have to accept that there is already too much retail space in the UK and that bricks and mortar retailing can no longer be the anchor for thriving high streets and town centres,” Grimsey said. “Town centres need to be repopulated as community hubs.”
The report holds up Stockton-on-Tees in the north west, which has recently introduced a pedestrianised town centre with a central plaza running through it, as a blueprint for the future. GDR CEO Kate Ancketill travelled to the County Durham town to talk to BBC Breakfast about the report and the future of retail.
“I think the report is absolutely spot on. We do still want to have and we need and we will have retail, but we’ll have a lot less of it. If you think that 20% of what we buy now is bought online, those retail purchases are not happening in the high street, often they’re happening on Amazon and so you simply don’t need as many shops. Also technology means that you can do a lot more with less space because you’ve got the long tail and every store is both a physical hub but also a digital hub.
“So many people do need exactly what is here [in Stockton-on-Tees] which is an experiential space to come and meet and have fun.”
Kate goes on to challenge the government to push high street regeneration and planning up the political agenda.
“This needs joined up thinking at government and local governmental level,” she said. “We need a minister of high streets. This needs to get serious focus at the very highest levels because it’s a huge employer and it’s absolutely essential to our communities.”