Innovative thinking needed over stark high street crisis - The Yorkshire Post says

What was already an existential crisis for the nation’s high streets has been brought into stark focus as a result of the pandemic.

High streets were deserted during the height of the lockdown. photo: Joe Giddens/PA

A total shutdown, for several weeks, of both the hospitality sector and non-essential retail predictably hit town and city centres hard and, even as lockdown restrictions ease, the picture remains worrying.

Independent businesses in office districts say they are continuing to suffer from the impact of large numbers of people still working at home and Ipsos retail performance data, published at the end of last month, found the average weekly footfall in the UK to be down by nearly two thirds overall in June, once stores had begun to re-open.

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Whilst the Eat Out to Help Out scheme is seemingly drawing diners back to eateries – more than ten million meals were bought under the scheme last week – the true impact of this is yet to emerge. And news this week that the UK economy is in recession, after GDP shrunk by a fifth in the second quarter of this year, will do little to alleviate concerns.

Several firms including River Island have announced job losses since stores reopened. Photo:Yui Mok/PA Wire

Read more: How Yorkshire high streets can be at heart of our recovery – Simon Clarke

However, there have been some amazing examples of self-starting and creative thinking throughout the crisis. Take, for example, the many restaurants that adapted quickly to set up new takeaway services so they could continue to reach customers – and, in some cases, just to survive. Such innovative approaches are needed now more than ever.

Giles Taylor of KPMG is right to highlight the need for businesses and civic leaders to work together. For, whilst it is understandable that caution is being exercised over workplace returns – and many employees have felt the benefits of working from home, not least due to the lack of any commute – collaboration is indeed key to striking a delicate balance that will enable a more flexible working world without damaging the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors that are the lifeblood of our high streets.

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James Mitchinson