THE retail sector has suffered thousands of job losses as an average of one Scottish shop a week has gone bust for the past 10 years amid crippling rates and increased competition.
The current vacancy rate in town centres has soared to 11 per cent over the same period, its highest level for five years.
Now, in an attempt to halt the decline, final preparations are in place for The Herald Future Of Our High Street Business Breakfast, in association with international law firm CMS, in Glasgow next Tuesday. The event is set to strike up interesting discussions as our high streets strive to continue to offer customers a personalised service while linking an online experience.
Alison Gow, partner at CMS, said: “We need to be flexible and adaptable in relation to our mindset for the high street of the future and take on the challenges.
“The disruptor of online retailing is forecast to account for 22.7 per cent of total retail sales by 2022 (Centre For Retail Research), driven by ease of access and value for money.
“Understanding the resources we have and making the best use of those resources, infrastructure, data, technology and, of course, people is key. “We need to ensure we engage all the stakeholders in the process by listening to them.
“We need to encourage innovation, imagination and thinking out of the box, sharing information and successes along the way, but the high streets will also need local and national government support. The High Street and Town Centre funds will be welcome, but perhaps it is time also to grasp the thorny issue of business rates.”
This event will shine the spotlight on how local authorities, retailers, communities and investors are tackling the challenges facing our towns and cities. It comes as the collapse of the high street and the demise of other big businesses has cost taxpayers more than £1 billion over the last five years.
The huge sum has been paid out by the UK Government to cover redundancy payments and unpaid wages after several large firms were plunged into insolvency.
Major retail companies such as BHS, Comet, Toys R Us and Maplin have all gone under, prompting the spike in workers forced to claw back money from the Insolvency Service. In Scotland, the payments totalled more than £75 million, leading to countless calls for action to stem the decline.
More than 1,300 stores closed during 2018, combined with a devastating footfall loss of three million. Swathes of stores have disappeared from the high streets over the last 12 months. Some of them, such as Debenhams and House of Fraser, are among the biggest names in retailing.
The Herald event is being held at CMS Office, 1 West Regent Street, Glasgow. Those attending will question and debate what businesses large and small are doing to safeguard the high street’s future.
Joe Barratt, co-founder of The Teenage Market, said: “We’re living through a period of unprecedented change socially, economically and politically across the UK, which is having a destabilising impact on the major retail offer in our town and city centres.
“What is clear is that a strong vision for the high street of the future is required to create vibrant communities built around a diverse mix of health, housing, retail and leisure.
“I’m certain the energies and passions of young people will play a huge role in delivering this vision.”
There is limited space available.
To confirm your complimentary place to attend see: http://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/future-of-our-high-street/