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Adapting to change: Retail High Street regeneration ideas

As the deterioration of high streets and town centres has become obvious in recent years, it’s essential to explore some creative high street regeneration ideas that… View Article


Adapting to change: Retail High Street regeneration ideas

As the deterioration of high streets and town centres has become obvious in recent years, it’s essential to explore some creative high street regeneration ideas that could help counteract this trend.

Some major shifts are on the horizon for the retail sector. As customer tastes and shopping habits are constantly changing, retailers must get creative if they want to stay competitive. Retail and consumer support must adapt; doing otherwise will lead to stagnation or even decline. 

We have witnessed too many stores and outlets closing their doors. The closures of Wilko stores, a cherished fixture on UK high streets for years, is just one example. Following the analysis made by PwC in 2023, a total of 14,081 retail units disappeared from UK high streets, shopping centres, and retail parks. 

Although those figures suggest a litany of challenges for retail businesses, they also present an opportunity for rebirth and revitalisation. High streets and town centres play a vital role not only in the economic prosperity of local communities but also in cultivating a sense of belonging and community.

In this blog, we will discuss some ideas for revitalising high streets. This will be our contribution to the rescue mission for stores and the people who keep them afloat on a daily basis. Rejuvenating town centres and high streets is about more than just the economy; it’s about people caring for each other and their communities. 

Revitalisation concepts have the potential to rescue retailers from the dire crisis. These ideas for the future of high street retail offer great potential for change and provide retailers with the tools that can turn their stores into agents of positive social and economic change.

High Street Regeneration ideas for retailers

Due to the changes taking place in the retail landscape, retailers need to be more innovative. Here are some ideas that may go a long way when trying to revitalise High Street:

  • Engaging the next generation: Since the younger generation finds it easier to shop online, marketers can attract them by bringing their favourite influencers into the store or providing exclusive in-store discounts. As more and more youth associate themselves with online influencers, marketers can leverage the audience’s engagement and persuade them to visit the store.
  • Improving the In-Store experience: In this scenario, stores can put more effort into offering unique benefits to customers. There are primary benefits that they can’t get from online shopping. This can include knowledgeable salespeople, an inviting environment, or the option to have their purchases delivered straight to their door instead of having to lug them all over town. 
  • Collaborations with other local independent businesses: By partnering with other local businesses and promoting locally made goods, retailers can create an environment that promotes the local economy and fosters relationships.
  • Creating hybrid spaces. The premises should not only be limited to selling products. They should also allow space for services such as a co-worker space, a daycare section for the parents to leave their children for a few hours, or a pet sitting area.
  • Adapting to changing work patterns and increased need for flexibility. In this case, stores need to consider remaining closed on a certain day of the week but being open at a time when people are not at work, in the early morning or evening.

How stores need to evolve in the future

In addition to high street regeneration ideas, retailers should deploy strategies to not only stay afloat but thrive in the future’s retail landscape. 

Here are some effective ways to stay in the race:

  1. Integrate an Omnichannel Approach: Retailers should create synergy between online and offline activities to merge a single buying journey. They may also employ data analytics to boost customer retention and increase sales. 
  2. Invest in Retail Digital Transformation: Retailers should integrate both online and in-store technology to streamline their operations. Digital transformation speaks volumes as it leads to a broader consumer base.
  3. Loyalty Programmes: Online and brick-and-mortar stores alike can benefit from customer loyalty programmes that reward customers for their continued patronage. More often than not, the store will offer some sort of perk to customers who return.
  4. Improve Employee Engagement: Amazing customer service begins and ends with employees. Retailers need happy and informed employees in order for their customers to realise an exceptional customer experience. Rewarding retail employees through an effective recognition strategy is key to motivate retail employees to do their best.
  5. Customer Engagement: Build bridges with the customers through retail customer engagement platforms that reach out to them more, including customer service and digital signage facilities. 
  6. Embrace Sustainability: In order to maintain their appeal to a wide range of consumers, retailers should adopt and implement a new sustainability strategy. Retailers can attain this goal by reducing waste, sourcing goods from ethical producers, and minimising their carbon footprint. By doing so, they can attract customers who are concerned about the environment and stand out from the competition.

How local and national authorities can aid High Street regeneration

The time to revitalise local areas and high streets is already here. Businesses are struggling under the weight of all these fast-paced changes in the retail world. It is the responsibility of both national and local governments to step in and help these community centres survive.

How exactly can this be achieved?

Authorities can play a role by enacting regulations that address the most common obstacles faced by retailers. For example, governments could facilitate the construction of ample parking spaces. This would enable customers to park affordably and conveniently access stores on foot.

Another incentive would be helping companies weather economic storms better with reduced commercial property rent, which frees up capital for expansion and investment. 

In the event of direct involvement, authorities may offer financial aid to landlords or local companies. These grants have the potential to make a significant impact. They might incentivise investors and entrepreneurs to transform and revitalise underutilized private and public spaces.

Another area where the government can make a difference is in the transportation sector. For companies and customers alike, it means better access and connectivity. 

To aid communities in their efforts to revitalise downtown areas, the national government has established the Future High Streets Fund. As revealed in the Tamworth case, the initiative’s impact can change the game. The fact that public and private entities are working together with the government to accomplish common goals shows that the High Street is not destined to fail.

High Street Regeneration examples

Examples of successful High Street regeneration can provide important lessons from best practices. 

  • Altrincham Regeneration Project. This project shows the tremendous success of mixed land use in revitalising town centres and local high streets. Altrincham’s House of Fraser building has been converted into a city centre with hubs that include a combined shopping complex, workspace, and leisure space. This revitalisation has turned the centre into an attractive place that has drawn more people to the area and boosted economic activity. 
  • Project Burgess Hill Redevelopment: This project demonstrates the value of remedial actions in responding to client requests for change. The project breathed new life into High Street small businesses. It incorporated imaginative designs and concepts and adapted the premises to customers’ demands with activities like experiential retail and gathering places. 
  • Shrewsbury’s Eco-Regeneration: The town centre of Shrewsbury aspires to be redeveloped, utilising eco-regeneration to become a place for people to exchange food and goods. The hope of this regulatory project is the development of eco-regeneration to produce a lively hub that ensures environmental consciousness, primarily for the benefit of the larger community. 
  • Westfield London House of Fraser Redevelopment: The House of Fraser store in Westfield London, to be converted into The Ministry Shepherd’s Bush, would provide a new approach to the High Street that includes food halls, cultural events, and open spaces.
  • Barnsley’s town centre has defied the national trend of decline, showcasing impressive results due to strategic interventions by the council. Through initiatives like the Glass Works project and community events, the town has revitalised its market and public spaces, fostering a vibrant atmosphere. Emphasising diversity in businesses, prioritising health and wellbeing services, and investing in youth development programmes have all contributed to the town’s resurgence. 
  • Downtown Manchester’s Northern Quarter Revival: The Northern Quarter, with its preserved historic architecture and its own distinct community and commercial experience, has grown into one of the city’s cultural hubs. The neighbourhood’s economy benefited from the influx of locals and tourists alike drawn in by the neighbourhood’s cafes, stores, and art galleries. 

These examples provide clear evidence of the success of creative planning and multi-stakeholder collaboration in high Street regeneration. They show how innovative solutions to retail space and the regeneration of outdated business centres and buildings can transform them into more resilient community hubs.

Rejuvenating the High Street requires innovative ideas, active participation from the community, and teamwork. With this model and its inherent strengths and historical legacy, the town or city can bring back the essence of a bustling downtown to its main street.

High Street Retailers making a comeback

Despite the numerous challenges posed by the sector, some High Street retailers in the UK are making an unbelievable return. These retailers are signalling the return of retail stores in the future: 

  • Marks & Spencer: UK high-street retailer Marks & Spencer, known for high-quality goods, underwent a series of large-scale restructurings in recent years. However, last year, the company launched a high-street revitalisation programme, which indicates its belief in the industry’s future despite the market threat.

To address changing customer preferences, M&S applied a two-pronged approach to store revitalisation. The company has spent millions optimising its shop network and simultaneously opening new stores in strategic locations throughout England. This move shows the firm’s trust in the health of the High Street going forward.

Its investments have already resulted in thousands of new jobs being created, suggesting longevity and improvements in the local employment market. M&S’s recovery is a good example of how UK high-street firms can evolve to succeed in the new market environment and is a positive trend for the future of the UK High Street.

  • Fenwick: As a leading department store chain, Fenwick has also achieved resilience and reinvention amid adversity. Empowered by a renewed customer-centred philosophy and emerging product inventory edits, the retailer welcomed its loyal shopper base back to stores. Furthermore, with thoughtful investments in digital synergy and creative marketing initiatives, Fenwick became more than just a luxury shopping adventure. The company became responsible for reviving the High Streets throughout the United Kingdom.
  • Morrisons: One of the largest supermarket chains in the United Kingdom. Morrisons has adopted an innovative approach to High Street retail. The chain expanded its High Street presence in strategic locations and revitalised its brand. This was possible by experimenting with different types of stores and entering into partnerships with local companies such as Jempsons. The creation of “Together with Morrisons” stores, a concept where local businesses would be located next to Morrisons products, has proven to be far more effective in attracting customers to brick-and-mortar locations. 
  • Tommy Hilfiger: As part of its strategic efforts under PVH Corp., the brand has been focusing on enhancing its brand and financial performance through digital-first consumer engagement strategies and efficiency improvements for reinvestment in growth areas. Demonstrating these strategies in action, Tommy Hilfiger is set to expand its presence in Manchester’s Trafford Centre with a new, larger store on Upper Peel Avenue. PVH Corporation, the well-known American clothing company that owns several brands and operates in over 40 countries, reported that its revenue increase during the second quarter of 2023, was fueled by the strong performance of its Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands.

These examples are indicative of the flexibility of High Street retailers in the UK. They showcase the retailers readiness to reinvent the wheel to remain relevant to consumers in today’s rapidly changing retail landscape and times. 

Final thoughts

Retailers should transform our high streets into vibrant hubs where local businesses thrive and events take place. Revitalising our town centres and main streets is a social responsibility as well as a financial imperative for the survival of our communities in the long term.

As the retail sector undergoes transformation, it is more important than ever for retailers to collaborate and embrace new strategies. The situation facing retailers on High Streets may seem bad right now, but it’s not completely hopeless. Despite challenges, there are signs of optimism, as for example the increase in retail redevelopment in London’s West End. Retailers can potentially make the most of a bad situation by collaborating with local authorities and communities and ultimately with each other. 

Many questions arise about the future of the British High Street. Are local stores going to disappear forever? Will any physical stores last in the coming years? In what ways can retailers meet all of their customers’ needs while remaining relevant to their ever-changing expectations?

Join us at our upcoming “Future of the High Street” event in June that aims to address these pressing matters and more, providing clarity and direction for what lies ahead.

Learn more, participate in discussions, and express your views with industry experts. Register today and prepare for the future of retail!


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