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Business seeks diverse mix of high street shops

Action on high street diveristy
9 June 2009

Business group London First has established a Retail Commission, to consider how to encourage retail diversity on London’s High Streets. The Commission will study measures that the Government, Mayor, Boroughs and business can take in the short, medium and long term. Conclusions and recommendations will seek to inform Mayoral policy (including the London Plan) and assist boroughs in developing policy and initiatives to strengthen suburban centres.

Chair of the London First Retail Commission is Grosvenor’s Jeremy Newsum.  He said:

“The challenges facing London’s retail centres are manifold and complex: all are suffering from the recession and reduced consumer expenditure, and face increased competition from growing use of the internet. As well as responding to the effects of recession, action is needed to ensure the long term health and vitality of London’s retail centres.”

London has a rich network of over 1,000 town centres; ranging from the West End, an international retail centre and the largest national centre, home of international brands and flagship stores; to local high streets which play a vital role to communities throughout London. More than 400,000 people work in retail in London in over 40,000 shops. Retail is important to London’s economy and communities: large multiple retailers and London’s many independent shops.

The West End faces increasing competition from major new shopping centres across the capital: Westfield White City opened in October 2008 and Stratford will be open in 2010. Local shops face increasing competition from supermarkets and centres which offer free and convenient parking. There is growing concern about “clone town” Britain (homogenous high streets) and the impact of new shopping centres on existing high streets. This will be exacerbated by the recession with many smaller retailers being vulnerable and unable to compete.

Jeremy Newsum added:
“The need to support and encourage a diverse retail sector is a pan-London issue: from the West End to the outer London boroughs. “Planning for a Better London” includes a Mayoral objective to encourage a dynamic and diverse retail sector. One proposed solution, adopted by some Boroughs, is to use the planning system to secure small and affordable retail units. Not only is this difficult financially, legally and for management, it does not address the many challenges facing the high street.

“The Commission will examine the issues thoroughly with a view to offering alternative approaches to addressing this worthwhile aim.”

The other members of the Retail Commission include:

Simon Quin                            ATCM
John Wakes                           BDP
Jane Milne                             British Retail Consortium
Ian Anderson                          CB Richard Ellis
Andrew Barry–Pursell              GLA
Chris Goddard                        GVA Grimley
Simon Baynham                    Howard de Walden Estates
Jeremy Collins                       John Lewis Partnership
Guy Grainger                         Jones Lang LaSalle
Mark Higgin                           Montagu Evans
George Nicholson                  National Retail Planning Forum
Chris Taylor                            Queensland Investment Group
Simon Quayle                        Shaftesbury

Notes to Editors
London First is a business membership organisation with a mission to make London the best city in the world in which to do business. London First undertakes this by mobilising the experience, expertise and enthusiasm of the private sector to develop practical solutions to the challenges facing London. London First also seeks to persuade central and London government to make the investments that London needs in its infrastructure
London First delivers its activities with the support of the capital’s major businesses in key sectors such as finance, professional services, property, ICT, creative industries, hospitality and retail. Membership also includes further education colleges and all of London’s universities. London First members represent over a quarter of London’s GDP.

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