Independent retailers in East Midlands optimistic about future of the Great British high street

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More than half (51.7%) of independent high street retailers in the East Midlands are optimistic about the future of their local high street – and more than three quarters (76.4%) of shoppers would miss their high street if it was no longer there.

This is according to new research commissioned to launch the Government-run Great British High Street Awards 2018, sponsored by Visa. The research reveals that despite recent negative economic forecasts and high-profile retail chain closures:

  • Almost four in ten (37.9%) independent retailers in the East Midlands describe themselves as ‘optimistic’ about the future of their local high street and more than one in ten (13.8%) are ‘very optimistic’ about the future of their local high street;
  • More than half (58.6%) say they predict more bars, restaurants and coffee shops appearing on their high street over the next five years.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon. James Brokenshire MP said: “The Great British High Street Awards acknowledge in a very important way how high streets are so vital to our nation. High streets are crucial in creating jobs, nurturing small businesses and driving local and regional economies.

“We want to celebrate the best examples of high streets, as well as those individual businessmen and women playing a leading role. The Government is doing everything in our power to ensure high streets continue to thrive.”

Suzan Kereere, Head of Merchant Services, Europe, Visa, added: “Visa is very proud to be supporting the Great British High Street Awards at a time when the nation’s high streets are transforming as both technology and consumer behaviour evolve, with consumers looking for a range of different experiences on their high streets. Businesses and communities have shown themselves to be highly adaptable, resilient and creative in meeting these demands.

“Visa is committed to finding innovative ways to support merchants and consumers and helping communities and economies to thrive. High street merchants help to establish and preserve bonds within communities that are as valuable as the economic benefits they generate.”

The findings also show more than two thirds (68.9%) of retailers in the East Midlands say being part of a local community and building relationships with customers are what they enjoy most about running their business, with more than a third (34.5%) saying their high street is ‘improving’ or ‘vastly improving.’

But the view from shoppers in the East Midlands is less positive, with more than seven in ten (72.2%) describing their high street as ‘staying the same’ or ‘getting worse’ and more than a fifth (22.9%) claiming there aren’t enough shops and services on it to meet their needs.

And six in ten (62.9%) say they feel ‘neutral’ or ‘not very optimistic’ about the future of their high street – despite a similar number (61.4%) visiting their local high street at least once a week.

However, more than three quarters (76.4%) of people across the East Midlands would miss their local high street if it no longer existed – and a similar number (75%) believe it is the people they meet there, in terms of both shoppers and retailers, that make it what it is.

Asked what would encourage consumers to visit their high street more and over half (52.9%) said more shops, four in ten (39.3%) said a better variety of shops and services and a similar number (38.6%) said better parking or public transport facilities.

Across the UK, the Great British High Street Awards 2018 research also reveals:

  • More than half (53%) of the nation’s independent high street retailers are optimistic about the future of their local high street;
  • Almost eight in ten (78%) independent high street retailers say building relationships with customers and being a part of a community is what they love the most about running their high street business;
  • Independent retailers are more likely to consider the presence of national chains as a POSITIVE factor, with around half (49.3%) saying it attracts shoppers to the area, compared to just a quarter (26%) who claim they lose business to larger retailers offering cheaper products and services;
  • A fifth of shoppers (21.3%) claim there aren’t enough shops and services to suit their needs and nearly two thirds (63%) say they feel ‘neutral’ or ‘not very optimistic’ about the future of their local high street
  • But, 81% of people across the UK would miss their local high street if it no longer existed;
  • Wales is the place most likely to see a big rise in high street coffee shops over the next five years, according to local independent traders, while Scotland will most likely see high street shops converted into housing or office space over the same period.

The Great British High Street Awards 2018, which are being run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, sponsored by Visa and back by other partners is recognising and celebrating local achievements on our high streets and supporting the communities in which we live and work.

The initiative includes a competition to find the nation’s best high streets, with winners being named in England, Scotland, Wales and – for the first time – Northern Ireland, across two categories: the Champion and Rising Star awards. An overall winner will also be named.

It was announced at today’s launch that author and TV presenter Simon Reeve will be a judge for the Great British High Street Awards 2018.

Mr Reeve said: “I’ve spent the last 16 years travelling around the world and investigating what is happening in other countries, so I’m really looking forward to being a bit closer to home and meeting the unsung heroes helping the nation’s high streets to thrive.”

This year, winners of the Champion award, celebrating the UK’s best high streets, will be named in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with an overall national winner also selected. Four Rising Stars High Streets – high streets that are taking the lead and working to adapt and diversify – will also be named. Shortlisted entries will be announced in September 2018.