Experts to look at future of Digital High Streets
An influential new Advisory Board convened for the first time recently to look at how digital technology can help create the sustainable and thriving high streets of the future.
At its inaugural meeting last week, the board agreed its terms of reference to examine how technology can play a part in helping to ensure high streets are attractive, sustainable and meet consumer demand. The group will work with Government and others with an interest in revitalising UK High Streets and report to the Future High Streets Forum.
The group set a range of aims and objectives including developing a strong approach to combining technology with the traditional high street to ensure high streets remain commercially viable and locally relevant; and bringing together a range of examples of successful technology initiatives to create a best practice guide that can be championed by the Future High Street Forum.
The Board also highlighted a number of already successful digital initiatives as examples that could be replicated across the country. This included the “Open High Street” in Hereford, that enabled small retailers and farm producers to compete online and the new Digital High Street Skills programme, a partnership between the National Skills Academy for Retail and the Association of Town and City Management that provides basic digital skills to small and medium enterprises which aims to train 3,000 SME owners and staff by the end of 2014.
Co-chair of the High Street Forum and High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis said: “The rise of online retail means Britain’s shoppers are changing their habits and high streets need to adapt to continue to prosper.
“Apps and other digital technologies can bring communities closer to the range of services good town centres offer or reward people for coming into town.
“I have asked John Walden to set up this new advisory Board to look at how technology can help connect every high street to the very best ideas.”
John Walden, chief executive of Home Retail Group and Chairman of the Digital High Streets Advisory Board said: “There are a number of digital-related high street initiatives, both in the public sector and private sector, but there is often little, if any, linkage between them. This board will take information from successful pilots and examples of good practice, and seek to apply it to a broader national strategy.
“It is absolutely imperative a national digital strategy for high streets is built around flexibility – so that it can adapt to changing consumer demand, and play a key role in the increasing desire of residents and visitors to access leisure, social and cultural experiences when they visit town and city centres.”