There is retail retreat happening everywhere, as larger businesses and chains desert our town centres (with many ceasing trading altogether or locating to out of town retail parks) under intense competitive pressure from online retail. One thing is becoming abundantly clear, they will never be able to come back…
This may, on the surface, look like a bad thing, but it is also a major opportunity. A preponderance of chains led to identikit town centres, their absence may leave empty shops and poor footfall, but the small independent businesses that remain can give each town centre a unique character and the possibility of a unique selling proposition to local residents and visitors alike.
To make the most of this opportunity, we need to bring the independent small businesses together, so that they can help each other identify and promote that unique selling proposition – what makes shopping in a particular town centre different (and better) that anywhere else. These businesses perhaps feel too small, too isolated and too dispirited to believe that collectively they can make a difference. We must find a way to help them come together an participate in something positive, to rekindle self-belief and inspire further collective action.
We are seeing this happen in Rawtenstall, Haslingden and Crawshawbooth, how can we make it so everywhere?
What do you think?
Rob Carder, Chair Valley at Work