The boss of John Lewis, Sharon White, has warned that UK highstreets risk becoming “looting grounds” for criminal activity, as she calls for a Royal Commission review of Britain’s ailing town centres.
White, who heads up the struggling department store and Waitrose grocery chain, has called on the government to launch a Royal Commission investigation into blighted high streets and how to revitalise them.
“Without a comprehensive plan to stop the rise in thefts from stores, high streets risk becoming a looting ground for emboldened shoplifters and organised gangs”, she said, writing in The Telegraph.
“High streets are more important to us than the sum of their parts; they help define our towns and cities and create civic pride. They are vital to us as a nation and, which is why, piecemeal decisions on individual problems will not work,” she added.
According to White, some 6,000 high street stores have closed in the past five years as a rise in online shopping and turbulent economy has battered brick and mortar stores.
Shoplifting and abuse to retailers has also risen in recent months.
The Co-op previously warned there were about 1,000 cases of crime and shoplifting at its shops every day in the six months to June.
A TikTok-inspired flash mob attempted a mass shop-lift of JD Sports just last month.
Dame Sharon also said planning laws must “provide clarity and certainty to support businesses when they want to invest in regeneration”.
It comes as the boss of Marks and Spencer, Stuart Machin, has recently launched a legal challenge against the government’s decision to reject the supermarket’s plan to revamp its Marble Arch store.
M&S had previously received a green light from Westminster City Council to tear down its Marble Arch store and replace it with a shop featuring a cafe, offices and a gym.
But following an investigation, Secretary of State Michael Gove,said the public benefits did not outweigh the damage that would be done to landmarks on the street, including luxury department store Selfridges.
City A.M has contacted the Department for Business and Trade for a comment.