Building healthy high streets - the Boots perspective

Bali Kaila, Head of Region (North and East), Healthy High Streets campaign gives an update on the progress the campaign has made so far.

High Streets are at the heart of local economies.  Vibrant high streets are absolutely vital for our businesses to succeed and for people to have pride in where they live.  However today 13.4% of units in town centres across the UK are vacant.  In some towns that figure is much, much higher.

That’s why we at Boots UK are pleased to be one of the founding partners of Business in the Community’s Healthy High Streets campaign.  Working alongside the three other founding partners, The Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer and Santander, we are working to upskill all our managers in towns up and down the country.

We are empowering store and branch managers in towns to be local business leaders, working with their local high street partnership to help achieve their vision for the town.  This is year one, and we are already working with 29 towns across the UK from Inverness to Penzance.  Over three years that number will grow to 100.

Towns are often associated with retail businesses, and indeed this industry makes a massive contribution to UK plc - the wholesale and retail sector contributes £150 billion to the UK economy with over four million people employed. However the future of town centres is not just about retail. Leisure, education, commercial offices and public services all have an increasingly important role to play in successful high streets and we’re keen to work with them to achieve this.

Nationally we have a clear ambition for what we want the Healthy High Streets campaign to achieve.  Over the next three years, we are aiming to reduce vacancies by 20%, increase footfall by 10% and create 3,000 jobs in the 100 town centres we will be working with.

It’s ambitious but we can already see signs of progress:

  • In Keighley, local businesses are working in partnership with the town team to make their OktoberFest the best ever. This includes promoting the event to their customers, creating a real buzz of excitement.

  • In Loughborough, businesses such as Boots UK are working with Loughborough University to create projects for students to drive footfall and encourage local entrepreneurs.

  • In Beeston, the local Santander branch manager has been leading a SME incentive and helping local entrepreneurs to establish their new businesses in their town.

I’ve worked in high streets for Boots UK for years, managing a small store, then a bigger store, then a number of stores.  Boots UK has always been a champion of high streets but this campaign is enabling us to collaborate across the country with other like-minded businesses.

Our industry is very competitive but for the sake of our high streets we have to put that to one side and work together.  Let’s create successful and healthy high streets so that businesses and the communities they serve can prosper.

Find out more on the Healthy High Streets campaign website.

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