The Regeneration of the High Street 7 Jun 2021
The Regeneration of the High Street
At Perry Holt we cover commercial & retail units across a number of local towns and high streets, in particular Watford, Bushey & Rickmansworth where our office and sister agency Sewell & Gardner are based.
The COVID pandemic, of course, had a terrible impact on our high streets, many local businesses were closed, a number of them went into administration including high profile businesses like Debenhams and Intu shopping centre. We also lost our John Lewis department store in Watford, so things were looking pretty dismal at a point in time.
High Street Transformation
However, the doom and gloom was pretty swiftly replaced by optimism and right across the UK, we have seen high streets and town centres experience significant turbulence; but, they are not dying but instead they are transforming, reinventing themselves with the help of the UK’s fantastic entrepreneurial spirit.
At the end of 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government confirmed a £830 million funding boost for high streets with Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP saying:
“The year ahead will be a big one for the high street as it seeks to recover, adapt and evolve as a result of the pandemic. Today’s £830 million investment from the Future High Streets Fund is one of many ways the government is working to help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future.
The role of the high street has always evolved. We want to support that change and make sure that they are the beating heart of their local community – with high quality housing and leisure in addition to shops and restaurants.
This investment will help us build back better and make town centres a more attractive place to live, work and visit.”
High Street public opinion
The MHCLG also commissioned an external market research company to gauge public opinion about their high streets and town centres. The short questionnaire was conducted twice a week interviewing a nationally representative sample of 2,000 GB adults aged 18 years and over and some of the key findings were:
- 53% of respondents visited their high street once a week, with 13% of young people visiting on a daily basis. Of young people 69% were very satisfied with their high street compared to 55% of those aged 75 and over.
- Respondents cited a good variety of shops as the most important feature of their high street. Unsurprisingly, people believed reducing the number of empty shops, better parking and a better mix of shops would improve their high streets.
- Respondents were asked how important it was to have residential areas within walking distance of town centres and high streets. Overall 64% of respondents felt this was important. There was a clear regional disparity, with those in North East and East Midlands less keen on having housing on the high street compared to those in the South East.
- Over 70% of respondents agreed that – ‘A safe and welcoming high street and town centre will enable and empower children and young people to use it more’.
Regeneration Seen First hand
At Perry Holt, we have seen this regeneration first hand. Retail units are in high demand, we have been helping new businesses to move into empty units, and have seen some unique new enterprises popping up.
- Specialist cake shop
- Taprooms & Brewers
- Barber shop
- ‘Posh’ Kebab Shop
- Specialist burger restaurant
- School uniform shop
We are also seeing a digital element coming to the high street. Whilst we haven’t got an Amazon shop, just yet, they are coming and if you haven’t experienced one, you basically log in with your phone, take what you want and scan on your phone as you go, so the money owed will come directly from your account…
Watford has weathered a storm
WhatsApp has also been a lifeline for millions of us separated from our friends and families during the pandemic and now it is proving to be a lifeline for businesses. The WhatsApp Business App was designed specifically for small businesses, is free to download, and is as simple and intuitive to use as WhatsApp itself. There are over 50 million users of the WhatsApp Business App worldwide, making it one of the most popular ways for small businesses to communicate with their customers instantly, and all using a simple service that their customers are already familiar with.
A spokesperson for Watford Borough Council said “Watford, like so many towns in the UK, has weathered a storm. And whilst we may not know what lies ahead, the pandemic has certainly shown that we can think outside the box to help our community during challenging times. The WhatsApp High Street initiative is yet another example of this. It remains a huge privilege for me to represent this innovative, resilient and creative community.”
Only a week ago we heard the great news from the Office for National Statistics that month-on-month retail sales grew by a better-than-expected 9.2% in April 2021 and are now more than 10% above pre-pandemic levels ?. We are looking to the future of our high streets and town centres, and are delighted to be helping local businesses to thrive. If you are looking for a new retail unit, or have one to sell or lease, just get in touch with our head of commercial property Joel Lobatto ??
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