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Great British high streets worth celebrating

Brandon Lewis launches a national competition to find our Great British high streets. 

The search is on to find our Great British high streets as a new report reveals increasing optimism among shoppers and the growing popularity of ‘click-and-collect’ services.

A national competition, the Great British High Street Awards, is being launched today (18 June 2014) by High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis, alongside new evidence showing that our high streets are rising to the challenge set by consumers who want increased convenience and more flexibility of services on the high streets.

The search to find and celebrate the best high streets in the country is being run by the Future High Streets Forum and the Association of Town and City Management. There are 6 separate categories in recognition of the diversity of Britain’s high streets:

  • city centre
  • town centre
  • market town
  • coastal community
  • village
  • parade of shops

The government’s long-term economic plan has supported local high streets with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action tackling over-zealous parking practices.

Many high streets affected by the economy in 2008 are now thriving as a result of changes made to serve their communities in increasingly popular ways and High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis believes this should be recognised. He said:

Whether it is a market town, coastal village or city centre, there are so many high streets across Britain doing fantastic work and now every community will be able to get behind their home town’s bid to show how popular they are.

This competition will discover where the Great British high streets are and celebrate their brilliance. I want the public to tell my panel of experts why their area should win. The most popular will get all the accolades that come with being named the best in Britain when we announce the winners in autumn.

The competition comes as new analysis by Experian found that high street managers and shop owners are positive about the future thanks to a strengthening economy and the emergence of the ‘one stop shopper’ who prioritises convenience and leisure. This is contributing to greater footfall and people spending more time on the high street.

The study identifies the rise of this evolving consumer behaviour where shoppers prefer ‘convenience culture’ such as click-and-collect services so they can multi-task and have more time to socialise while doing their shopping in this convenient way.

Different parts of the country are catering for this in a variety of ways, whether it is giving older people easier access to services, helping bargain hunters browse the best deals online or offering city dwellers more fun and variety. This shift is being reflected in a high street that is rapidly moving beyond traditional retail into a ‘Great British’ experience. The report points to the steady growth of convenience stores (+153%), cafes (+75%), fast food (+30%) and restaurants (+20%) as proof of this evolution.

Simon Roberts, Future High Street Forum Co-Chairman added:

High streets and town centres form the heart of many communities. They are what many towns are defined by and provide a focal point for local populations. I welcome the Great British High Street Awards and the opportunity they provide to celebrate and recognise the practical management, planning and development that towns are delivering. On a personal level I am keen to see and learn from the success stories that will come through from the award entries.

Martin Blackwell, Chief Executive Association of Town and City Management said:

This report really does highlight that our high streets, towns and city centres each have their own unique personalities. With strong partnership, shared plans for the future and effective management, our local spaces will continue to play a key role in improving the wellbeing of those who live, work and play there and continue their role as vibrant, economically successful and importantly places for people and business. The launch of this competition is an ideal opportunity for communities to celebrate what makes their high streets special and show off what makes their local area unique.

Paula Vennells, Chief Executive of the Post Office said:

Our High Streets are reinventing themselves and the Post Office is at the heart of those communities, available where and when our customers need us. We are delighted to be partnering in this campaign.

Further information

The Experian report co-authored by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) can be viewed on the ATCM website.

Key findings include that people:

  • are getting older - high streets must offer good service and leisure in nice, safe local places
  • want leisure experiences the most - high streets must not only offer unique retail, but social and cultural experience too
  • want to be able to live on their own terms - high streets must provide more choice
  • are using technology in everyday life - high streets must provide information, shopping, socialising and deal hunting
  • are driven by value

Town teams will be able to apply for 1 of 6 categories which recognise the diversity of high streets:

  • city centre
  • town centre
  • market town
  • coastal community
  • local centre, ie precinct or parade of shops
  • village

There is also a London specific category - further details can be found

The competition will be held throughout the summer. Town teams are invited to nominate their high streets and bids will be published online so communities can show their backing alongside Then experts from the Future High Streets Forum will decide who are the best from a shortlist.

Support the competition using #GBHighSt on Twitter.

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