British High Streets: from Crisis to Recovery? A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence

Well worth reading this document

Town centres and high streets provided highly visible and graphic evidence of the scale of the economic downturn. The crash in consumer confidence was followed by an immediate and abrupt increase in vacancies. Vacancy  measured as either a percentage of floorspace in a centre or in terms of the percentage of empty property units (voids) more than doubled over the five years from 2008 – in the case of voids rising from 7% in 2008 to a peak of 16.3% in 2012, before trending downwards as the economy began to recover, falling to 15.1% by October 2013, and again to 13% by April 2014.
Significantly, the shockwave also exposed and reinforced longer-term underlying forces of change which had been reconfiguring UK town centres and high streets for some time, but which had been somewhat masked during the ‘growth’ years of the early/mid 2000s. Not all those forces, it must be stressed, were negative for the high street. The period of turmoil offered new opportunities for those businesses which could change and adapt. These forces of change included short term pressures of economic shock from the recession, and medium term forces such as planning policy and institutional support for town centres and high streets in the face of competition from alternative retail locations.

In turn, the short and medium term forces combined with long term pressures including the disruptive effects of online retailing, changing demographics, and significant shifts in consumer behaviour which underpinned the rise of what has been termed ‘convenience
culture’, to produce a period.

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