Opinion

Charlie Mullins: Reports of the death of the high street may have been greatly exaggerated

4 min read

27 July 2015

Thanks to some entrepreneurial spirit and a little help from the government, the much beleaguered high street is showing signs of resilience and recovery.

I was full of praise for chancellor George Osborne when he announced proposals in his Budget for an extension to Sunday trading laws in England. 

It is a measure that can bring the high street kicking and screaming into the 21st century by giving them something closer to a level playing field with other enterprises that can do businesses whenever they want.

From Newcastle to Newquay those precious couple of extra hours of trade will be valuable to UK retailers. In London there is real optimism about the move, which, according to some research by Volterra Partners, could create 2,000 new jobs – and that’s just in the West End and Knightsbridge.

The research also reckons that it’ll boost City businesses by £260m each year. Of course, this part of the world pretty much has its own economic climate because of its intense tourist trade and wealthy residents, but the principle of adding extra time for shopping will bring similar financial benefits to cities, towns and villages across the country.

Importantly, it will give newer retail enterprises that little bit of help in the early stages of development. 

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And it is also coming at a time when new entrepreneurs are coming to the rescue of the high street. Another bit of research, this time by mobile phone network EE, said that almost a third of new businesses launched in the UK over the next two years will start life as a pop-up shop as entrepreneurs venture into the world of retail.

While many relate the term “startup” to tech firms designing apps, it’s heartening to see that running a retail businesses is still an ambition for so many new entrepreneurs.

Pop-up shops are a fantastic way to test out a market and give entrepreneurs a chance to hone their products and services. They are also a great way to inject some life into ailing town centres creating new footfall from inquisitive shoppers.

Extra face to face selling time will be snapped up by these new businesses and increases the chance of growth. Of course, there is a benefit to all of us if such businesses succeed.

Firstly, as consumers, it will increase our choice on the high street and also help the economy by creating employment and generating tax revenue for local councils and the Treasury. But they will also be welcome new members of the mutually beneficial business community.

After all, such businesses will need someone to maintain accounts, help with IT and, of course, help with plumbing and property maintenance!

Joking aside, the ripple effect of successful businesses is what makes the economy strong and the sooner these proposals come into force the better. We’ll all benefit. After all, as former US president John F Kennedy once said, a rising tide lifts all boats.