Retail giant Sir John Timpson said there are too many shops in most towns and there needs to be more variety on the high street.
Sir John, the chairman and owner of Timpson, a UK shoe repair chain with over 2,000 outlets, called for more choice in town centres.
“We’ve got to look to the future of the high street and there is something that needs to be done in terms of using the properties that are closed…the whole property portfolio on the high street needs a good close examination now,” he told GB News.
“You’re talking about the closed units and I suspect there’s a large number of those closed units which will never be shops again.”Sir John Timpson
“It is partly because the business rates, unless they’re reformed, present another stumbling block. Even if the rent was nothing they used to pay the business rates, but also the fact is that, frankly, there are too many shops in most towns.
“What we need to see is a complete realignment of what the property is doing in those towns so that it’s not just retail, they’re not just properties for shops, they’re properties for the town,” he added.
“They should include lots of other things like hospitality, entertainment, leisure, medical services, and indeed housing – some of those places…should become places that people live in and put more energy back into the town centres.”
Sir John, also head of the Government’s high street experts panel, made his comments during an interview with Alastair Stewart.
He said: “I think the government’s role here is to create the impetus for change that is needed, but that change will be run locally and inspired.”
“We need inspiration globally to make sure that it happens but we start with a big problem in that town centres, shopping centres, well formed as they are now, basically in the 1970s when we had quite a lot of shops.
“And then they added a few more shopping centres in the town centre and then beyond that, we’ve seen all the supermarkets developing retail parks, taking a lot of the business away, and then we bring in internet shopping.
“It’s not surprising that the result of that is we’ve got too many retail properties.”Sir John Timpson
Sir John added: “That all needs sorting out but there is a lot of positive influence. In fact, the effect of lockdown, the effect of the whole Covid thing, that here’s not been anything like as dramatic as they were suggesting.
“We’re now seeing a lot of new retailers coming back into town, which is great and sometimes by reorganising what they do, bringing more housing into the centre, getting other services other than retail, they are showing a bigger footfall.
“So we’re seeing where it should be going and I think this is going to make a massive difference, but this has given the Government a bit of a nudge to get the whole issue of retail shopping in town centres pushed in the right direction.”