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22


BUSINESS FIRST June\July 2012 www.businessfirstmagazine.co.uk


Brushfield Street, with Christ Church, Spitalfields in the background


SAVING


We are told the High Street is on its knees. If that is so, Nick Barron wonders, why are supermarkets piling back in?


Public debate about the future of the UK high street has intensified as the bodies of British retailers have stacked up. In May, Mayor Johnson launched a competition to find three London high streets to act as pilot projects, following the recommendations of the Mary Portas review, to add to the 12 national pilots already agreed by the government. So the political imperative to ‘do something’ is intensifying, and it is not hard to see why. More employees have been affected by retail failure in the first


LONDON’S HIGH


STREETS


half of 2012 than in any year since 2008 and it’s on course to way surpass that depressing benchmark by the end of the year. The list of the biggest name retail casualties of recent years includes Clinton Cards, La Senza, Peacocks, Comet, MFI, Habitat, Focus DIY, JJB Sports, Adams and Borders. They range from local high street retailers to shopping centre regulars and big box brands.


Despite this grim backdrop, this is, perversely, the most exciting time for London’s high streets in decades. That is because I believe high streets aren’t the common denominator in this misery – (bad) retailers are.


In fact, the high street is part of the solution for ailing retailers. In April, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke confirmed that his strategy to re-engage shoppers would involve rebalancing the portfolio away from big box Tesco Extra stores towards smaller format stores. It was the latest signal supermarkets are scrambling to deliver growth by returning to the high street. Jon Copestake of Retail Gazette explains the trend simply: ‘Sellers need to be where their customers are and not the other way around.’


For decades, supermarkets have been cast as the enemy of the high street, so the fact that they are now recolonising the locations they left behind might


PHOTO CREDIT Sheli Jensen Shutterstock.com


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