High Street Champions scheme launches

Leading businesses pledge new support for struggling UK high streets in a new Business in the Community scheme linked to Mary Portas' Pilot Towns.

I heartily welcome The High Street Champion initiative. No one said the regeneration of high streets would be easy, there are no quick fixes, it takes teamwork with all stakeholders working to a common goal. So I am delighted big businesses are taking social responsibility and becoming pillars of the community, giving invaluable support and advice as well demonstrating good citizenship.

- Mary Portas,
Author of the Portas Review
A pilot initiative to increase corporate involvement in struggling UK high streets was announced yesterday at Responsible Business Week by Mary Portas, author of the Portas Review of the future of our high streets, and Alex Gourlay, Chief Executive of the Health & Beauty Division, Alliance Boots. 

High Street Champions sees some of the biggest brands on the British High Street committing to give further support of their high streets at local level, with each matched to a town centre in need of regeneration. The scheme, which will initially focus on the 27 ‘Portas Pilot’* towns, aims to bring business expertise and skills to support Town Teams** in those pilot areas.

Boots UK, The Co-operative Group, JD Wetherspoon, Lloyds Banking Group, Marks & Spencer, Wilkinsons and Post Office have all signed up to the scheme and have been matched with Pilot Towns. BITC is now calling on more businesses to bring their skills and expertise into town centres as High Street Champions.

A High Street Champion will typically be an individual working for the company at local level such as a Store Manager or Branch Manager who has been nominated by their company. They will also draw on experts in middle and senior management from the ‘champion’ business to provide focused support for that Town Centre and Town Team.

Commenting, Alex Gourlay, Chair of BITC's High Streets Taskforce said: “We believe in the importance of strong local high streets as a key driver for the future of retail in the UK. The High Street Champion pilot is a new and exciting opportunity for businesses to support the regeneration of healthy high streets and communities.”

Mark Prisk, Minister for Local Growth added "High streets are at the heart of our communities and important drivers of the local economy. We are committed to helping them to adapt, which is why we are lifting planning restrictions, doubling small business rate relief, and giving local authorities more power to help businesses - all backed by a multi-million pound package of support."

This approach requires a joint effort between Government, businesses, local authorities and communities. Today's High Street Champions initiative means that local communities will get further support from leading businesses, who will use their unique expertise to develop, creative and innovative ways to make town centres thrive again."

See www.bitc.org.uk/highstreets for more information, including a list of towns already matched with a High Street Champion.


*Mary Portas published her independent review into the future of High Streets in December 2011. One of the 28 recommendations was to establish pilot towns where communities could trial some of the ideas outlined in her review.  24 Pilot Towns were subsequently chosen by the government, with the Mayor of London funding a further three.

**Town Teams are one of the recommendations proposed in Mary Portas' review. They typically comprise of local stakeholders such as landlords, small business, local government representatives, community groups and residents brought together on a voluntary basis to trial some innovative solutions to the town’s challenges. Each of the Pilot Towns has established a Town Team and has approximately £100,000 of central government funding to spend on putting its ideas into practice.