EVEN though Yorkshire is home to some of the most successful and innovative high streets in the country, town centres across the region have not been immune from the economic challenges facing the retail industry.
Not only does every store closure represent the loss of livelihoods – a major source of anxiety for all those concerned – but every empty shop translates to less footfall when small businesses, the lifeblood of the national economy, need to be supported.
And it is why the next phase of The Yorkshire Post’s special series on the high street is keen to accentuate the positives – and how local consumers, communities and councils can all make a difference in 2019 as national leaders focus on business rates, rents and the tax obligations of online retailers.
First, consumers. The timeless maxim ‘use it or lose it’ has never been more important as some shops, like public services, fight for their future.
Recognise and reward outstanding service – and encourage others to do likewise – because the cumulative effective of ‘people power’ remains priceless.
Next, communities. The best ideas and innovations will also be driven by local people – it is unreasonable to expect London-based politicians to have all the answers. Residents, and businesses, should have a vested interest in turning their high street, or arcade of shops, into a success story. If a new store does not open, what other uses can be found before empty premises fall into disrepair?
Finally, councils. Even though all town halls face budget restraints, it is also in their interests to become the facilitators of community-led improvements, and show flexibility over issues like parking charges. More premises in use should, in turn, mean additional rates and revenue for councillors to invest in local areas.
Recognising that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions because of the very diversity of high streets here, Yorkshire’s retail sector will, nevertheless, be better placed to withstand changes in the economy, and society, if consumers, communities and councils utilise their collective expertise. Over to you.