A week rarely passes without more stories of the high street’s struggles. In the past decade several household name retailers have collapsed and many more suffer from poor sales figures.
Commentators usually place the blame for this situation on two things: Online shopping and businesses rates. This misinterprets the challenge facing the high street and ignores the reality that, in many places, the high streets are booming.
In Cambridge, York and London the high street vacancy rate is around 7%. While at the other end of the spectrum Newport, Bradford and Wigan have the most city centre vacancies, with more than one in five commercial units sitting empty. All of these places face competition from online retailers and councils in all of these places charge business rates.
High streets struggle because of the weakness of the broader city centre economy. Concentrating high-skilled exporting businesses within the city centre creates well-paying jobs and people with money to spend on high street amenities. For example, people in Cambridge, York and London have on average £634 more to spend every month than those in Newport, Bradford and Wigan.
The extra income, created by the high-skilled, high-paying companies that locate in the city centres of places such as Cambridge, York and London, generate footfall for high street leisure and other amenities. For example in Manchester, where the number of city centre workers has increased in the past 20 years, the number of high street amenities has also increased.
Many cities struggle to attract business investment and have high vacancy rates on their high streets. How can they improve their attractiveness to business and boost the vibrancy of their city centres?
This report explores the link between city economies and the strength of their high streets.
This briefing examines the limited economic benefit that enterprise zones have had five years on from their establishment.
Culture is an important part of urban life, but policymakers should avoid using state-backed cultural interventions to turn around the economy.
The recent focus on struggling high streets ignores the success of well-performing city centres and misdiagnoses the real problem: a lack of high-skill jobs
A strong high street does not necessarily need to have lots of shops. High streets with more empty units actually have higher proportions of shops, while those with fewer empty units have higher shares of food, drink and leisure amenities that do not compete with online retail giants.
Ensuring a supply of good quality office space for high-skilled businesses is also an important component of ensuring the high street’s survival. The proximity of office space to local conveniences, bars, restaurants, gyms and other amenities creates a permanent footfall for the high street.
Policymakers examining the most effective and long-term ways to save the high street should:
What's the right mix of commercial space and residential in the heart of a city? What can places do to attract more business investment and people to city centres?
The best way to create resilient town and city centres with a strong demand for local services is to encourage broader jobs growth
Ahead of next week’s budget, it is rumoured that the Chancellor will make it easier to convert shops into homes. How exactly he will do this is unknown, but it sounds like he will expand...
Cities need to weigh up whether their local property markets are meeting the evolving needs of businesses
Our new data dashboard has the answer
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The scale and density of cities means that they offer more choice - not just for work but also play.
Footfall data suggests that while smaller cities did see busy high streets, activity was sluggish in larger cities.
The reopening of non-essential shops was expected to bring relief for the retail sector. On the whole, that is what happened but footfall data gives us a more nuanced picture of how it played out across the country.
While the Chancellor made a series of national announcements in the Summer Statement, they will play out differently across the country.
Wednesday's Summer Statement should set out the following five key policies if it is to support a recovery across the country.
Cities are taking the lead when it comes to reopening the high street, but they need national support to address outstanding challenges.
Although restrictions on opening are being lifted, high street businesses remain at risk while office workers remain at home.
Rolling back Covid support measures is complicated, but a framework for thinking about it suggests a clearer way forward.
Our new high streets recovery tracker shows that successful city centres have seen the largest falls in footfall. Valentine Quinio on why this is likely to be driven by significant reductions in the share of people coming from outside the city.
Join us to learn about our high streets recovery tracker