High street’s wake-up call as 900 Yorkshire chain stores shut – The Yorkshire Post says

THE closure of 900 chain stores across Yorkshire in the past year represents 900 buildings that will, potentially, decay unless alternative uses can be found for them.

Yet this number is also the proverbial tip of the iceberg; many more premises may shut for good when the Government’s support measures for the retail sector are phased out as the lockdown is lifted.

And that is why the Government and councils now need to work together to introduce many of the measures that were set out by leading entrepreneur Sir John Timpson in his report on the future of high streets.

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After all, Yorkshire is home to many market towns – Beverley, Malton and Northallerton, to name just three – which are flourishing because they have found a niche and that this is now translating into rises in house prices.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to Barkers department store in Northallerton last summer.

Equally, there are once vibrant towns, and high streets, where the “retail rot” needs to be halted before even more lasting damage – both economically and socially – is done to the communities concerned.

And, in many respects, it comes down to this choice – does the Government want a stay-at-home society to emerge from the lockdown or is it willing to roll up its sleeves to create vibrant towns and high streets where people want to live, work, socialise and, crucially in light of recent events, feel safe?

If it is the latter, as this newspaper sincerely hopes and believes, then Ministers need to do more to incentivise local shops so they can compete more fairly with online (and low- tax) retailers like Amazon before it is too late. It’s also one issue that Chancellor Rishi Sunak can buy time and delay for only so long.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a walkabout in Northallerton last summer.
Guy Barker of Barkers department store made the case for wider reform of business rates when he met Chancellor Rishi Sunak last year.