High Streets are the UK’s shop window

Jane Pritchard, Business in the Community's Enterprise Director, discusses how the state of high streets give us an insight into their local area. She argues that if we are to help local communities via their high streets, effective partnerships between the local community, business and local authorities are essential.

There’s no better indicator of the success of a place than the health of its high street. Is it a thriving hub of social, cultural and commercial activity with busy public spaces, digitally networked and a buzzing night time economy? Or is it a sea of 'To Let' signs, boarded up shops and ‘no go’ areas with an atmosphere of decline?

Our high streets are changing. This evolution is fueled by online retailing growth, combined with the increasing cost of doing business on the high street with hikes in business rates and rising inflation. There is a shift from a mainly retail focus to a mixed-use café society. People are coming to our high streets for a more social experience, the night time economy and activities and events focused around the uniqueness of individual places and brands. Digital technology is playing an increasing role in this transformation.

To respond to these challenges and adapt to change we need local solutions. Effective partnership between the local community, business, local authorities are essential to future success.  We need to capture local pride and passion of people where they live and work, access the resource and expertise and investment of business and work alongside local authorities to agree a vision and a practical delivery plan to make long term impact. 

Business in the Community has been creating that link between business and society for more than 35 years and most recently our Healthy High Streets programme has taken a focused approach to direct and practical business support at grass roots level.

People, Places and Pride is a practical toolkit which summarises and shares the experience and learning of Healthy High Streets programme between 2014-2017.

The toolkit provides practical advice and examples including inspiring ideas from some of the 100 towns that were part of the programme. We have identified ten key actions business can take to support local high streets. There is still much more to be done as external influences continue to present enormous challenges to places around the UK. There is an unacceptable gap between those who are benefitting from the changes and those who are not.

Using our learning from the Healthy High Streets programme, we launched Pride of Place in December 2017 – a new approach to the way we ask businesses to engage in communities. Pride of Place brings together the skills and resources of business to help some of our communities in greatest need thrive again. It is a strategic and long-term approach based on over 35 years of experience of Business in the Community.

Starting in Blackpool, a former Healthy High Streets town, Blackpool Pride of Place will mobilise the collective resource and strength of business to provide coordinated support to places around the country over the next five years. Only by working together can we make a change, place by place.