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Gloucestershire Business News

Retail no longer the main high street attraction

Town centres are evolving and retail is no longer the main attraction in many high streets, according to new research.

The High Streets Task Force analysed 154 town centres in England and found that 44 per cent provide a wide range of different services to their communities, including health, education, culture and leisure. The number of multifunctional towns rose by eight per cent between July 2019 and June 2020.

These multifunctional towns fared better during the Covid-19 crisis. From 1st March to 30th June, footfall in smaller district centres fell by 34.5 per cent, compared to a drop of 75.9 per cent in larger cities over the same period.

Even before the pandemic, footfall in town centres had fallen by five per cent since 2015 and this latest research suggests high streets may not recover to pre-Covid footfall levels.

Professor Cathy Parker, research lead of the High Streets Task Force, said: "The historic decline in footfall we've seen doesn't mean that all high streets are failing. It shows that their function is changing. Our research indicates that during and after lockdown, local high streets have been people's lifeline, for essential retail and services, and as a gateway to local parks and green space. People are rediscovering their local areas and rethinking what they want from their high streets."

In highlighting the changing fortunes and role of city centres post-lockdown, the report also highlights the need to consider how liveable cities are for their resident populations.

Mark Robinson, High Streets Task Force chair, said: "The pandemic has brought forward changes that usually take years to occur. Instead of "How long is the commute?" people are asking "Do I live within walking distance of the services I need - like food, green space, healthcare, schools and childcare?". It is clear that multifunctional town centres are on the rise and we now have the opportunity to accelerate this to meet the challenge of bringing back into productive use, redundant retail space."

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