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.
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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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Data on credit and debit card spending levels where people spent the most in the run up to Christmas.
Britain’s biggest cities were the slowest to recover after lockdowns. But does this mean that they face greater long-term challenges? Not necessarily.
As new restrictions affect retail in the run up to Christmas, what does spending data from earlier in the year tell us about what the future might hold for the high street?
In most city centres, the second lockdown had less of an impact on footfall than the first one. But city size matters as much as the tier of restrictions.
Analysis and discussion on the future of retail spending.
Only once policy makers recognise that retailers' struggles are inseparable from the strength of the wider local economy will they be able to find sustainable solutions to high street decline.
Online spend has increased everywhere, but figures offer hope to traditional bricks and mortar.
Senior Analyst Kathrin Enenkel on why the current web of business rates reliefs should be abolished.
The business rates burden falls disproportionately on Northern England and is a barrier to levelling up. Andrew Carter calls on the Chancellor to reform the system.
Change can be hard. Changing something as complex as the business rates system is no exception to this - but the Dutch experience shows it is not only possible but also well worth it.