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Challenges on the High Street addressed at Waves Ahead Business Conference

"High streets are facing enormous challenges, requiring seismic change to help them adjust to 21st century demands". That was the message from Bill Grimsey, retail guru and lead author of the Grimsey Review 1 and 2, when speaking at the recent Waves Ahead Business Conference, held at Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham.

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The dramatic changes to the retail industry over recent years, has been brought about by the convergence of changing consumer behaviour, advances in technology, an archaic business rates system and changing economic conditions.  Factors like Brexit have further exacerbated problems with a weaker pound and the subsequent pressure on retail prices. To put the sector into context, in 2018, retail contributed £194 billion to UK economic output , (which equates to about 11% of the total), with an estimated  4.9 million workers (about 20.5% of the UK total) and consisted of approximately 374,000 businesses (15.5% of the UK total).   

However, as desperate as the situation has become, one of the key findings of the Grimsey Review is for all towns to develop plans that are business-minded and focused on transforming the place into a complete community hub.  A collaborative effort: incorporating health, housing, arts, education, entertainment, leisure, business/office space, as well as shops, helps to develop a unique selling proposition (USP) for each town.

During his key note speech, Grimsey was clear on who and what is needed to see change.  "Key stakeholders needed to turnaround the fortunes of the high street are central and local government: however, engagement from property developers, regeneration professionals, trade associations, retailers, landlords, investors, think tanks and pressure groups have a clear role to play, helping to shape the place, making them fit for purpose and enjoyable to visit".

The event included a lively and informative Q and A (pictured) with panel members Bill Grimsey (left), Lindsay Skene, owner of Linden Tree Flowers, Southwick (centre) and Martin Randall, Director of Economy, Adur and Worthing Council (right). The Adur & Worthing Business Partnership (of which FSB is a partner) was proud to be part of the event, with the Chair, Andrew Swayne, providing the closing speech.