As 2018 draws to a close many retailers are re-evaluating their portfolio in this quarter alongside their retail strategies. They are making unprecedented business decisions relating to their current models to remain relevant in a competitive market. Although difficult for those employees affected these businesses are merely adjusting to the drastic changes on the high street and within our town centres. Businesses are having to reinvent their strategies to keep up with consumer behaviour continuing to innovate and inspire.

The rise of digital has occurred faster than our towns and cities could ever have imagined and gained speed in 2018 due to a number of factors. We applaud the businesses making adjustments as they reinvent and remain on the high street in 2019. High Streets remaining relevant is something we hear so much of currently, but how are businesses meant to achieve this by themselves? It is so much more complex than simply a retail problem.

Consumers have never had it so so good in terms of choice and they need to feel connected to their local community and have a good reason to visit and support their town centres. They still need shops right? Yes they do, but not in the traditional sense. Customers are seeking an experience and connection with their local area, they want to visit somewhere they can immerse themselves in the history, shops and services that are relevant to them as they evolve, supporting imaginative developments that increase footfall and attract inward investment, thus reducing the number of empty premises.

We welcome the recent government announcement following the recommendations from the High Street Panel chaired by Sir John Timpson to establish a £675 Million Future High Street Fund and Town Centre Taskforce to mentor and support town centres. Local Authorities are being encouraged to review their town centres and forward proposals setting out their challenges and strategic approach to regenerating town centres by the 22nd March 2019. This upside down Goverment principle will empower local leaders to implement their plans and create town centres that remain fit for the future; supporting the local community with services and a town centre they can be proud to live, work and play, focusing on community services, transport and housing.

We believe that understanding the needs of your community and having a strong place brand is fundamental to the success of town centres in the future and we will continue to work with Local Authorities and local leaders in the new year to diagnose issues affecting high streets and town centres, advise on measures to keep them relevant and thriving as towns of the future.

As we move into an uncertain new year for the retail industry, Local Authorities have a vital part to play in supporting our town centres and their stakeholders, redefining the customer experience for the local community and visitors – supporting retail with local leadership to tackle the current challenges being experienced by towns up and down the country.

You can follow our industry blogs here. We would like to take this opportunity to wish you a prosperous 2019 and look forward to working on innovative town centre projects from January 2019.

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