Reinventing the High Street

Photo by Joe Low – See www.joelow.com

This weekend The Daily Telegraph launched its ‘Reinventing the High Street’ campaign. There is a sense that the high street is dying, with internet shopping on the rise and ever more retailers closing their doors. Are we on the brink of a tipping point into decline or is this the catalyst for its rejuvination? At Snug Projects we see every challenge as an opportunity for innovation. The high street will no doubt need to change and adapt if it is to thrive and that is where the opportunities will lie. Central to this rejuvination will be the realisation that the high street is not just a space for selling. City centres have always been about Market, Meeting and Movement. We need all three for the economics of the high street to thrive. The high street must foremost be a destination where people want to be. After all, they no longer need to be there. The internet or out of town retail park are perfectly functional if all we are interested in is shopping. It is the delight of being with others in a vibrant and often historic high street that will ensure the market continues to motor. The trick is to turn the challenge around. Rather than focusing on how we can sell stuff the high street needs to focus on how we can serve people needs and aspirations for increased well-being. We must promote more meeting and movement if we want the market to blossom. We need to be promoting reasons why people will want to dwell on the high street. If high streets can become places where large numbers of people live, work and play or pass through on their way, we will be getting there. We need to fill and surround the high street with reasons for people to be there. We need to make it easy for innovators and entrepreneurs to experiment with new uses for shops and streets. We need to focus our cultural events in and around the high street. Then we will find its a pleasure to be there. We may even choose to spend alittle while we’re there, but it may not be what we used to buy.