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IPM Senior Fellows on “upbeat” BBC Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ programme on the high street

Two IPM Senior Fellows, the Institute’s Interim CEO Ian Harvey and Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director, MRI Springboard, were guests on a BBC Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ programme on 19th September 2023, called How well does your high street work for you?

With the closure of a number of Wilko stores following the company’s administration and calls from Dame Sharon White, Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, for a Royal Commission to investigate a variety of high street issues, the programme wanted to get a sense from local people and business owners of their perspective on their town and city centres.

In a perhaps surprisingly upbeat series of contributions given the dominant media narrative about the high street, the majority of the callers had positive reflections.

From Shaftesbury “we’re very very lucky with our high street” and Peckham “we’re really lucky to have a really buzzing community”, to Stevenage “it’s absolutely fantastic here, thriving”, Norwich: “what’s good…? Everything”, and Leamington Spa “we are very lucky to have such a thriving high street,” the callers – both customers and high street business owners, including one that had switched from running an online store to bricks & mortar - were largely enthusiastic about their town and city centres.

There were though reservations from some locations about the number of empty shops, loss of retail outlets, parking charges and capacity, bank closures, mechanisation of service, and the mix of use types.

Responding to the listener comments and questions by host Rima Ahmed, Diane said: “The callers were reflecting exactly what is happening. Some places are still struggling with competition from online, out-of-town retail, the impacts of the pandemic and a number of local issues, but many are faring much much better, including a number – particularly market towns - that have really come into their own with people seeming even more keen to support them.”

Remember,” Diane said “that the majority of spend – 75% - is still in-store not online. When we have the opportunity to go in-store, we do.”

Ian began by drawing together the various caller comments, noting one common theme was the importance of ‘experiential’ going forward and that “retail can no longer be the single reason for people to use their town or city centre. They need more social spaces leisure, culture, food, places to live,” he said.

Responding to a question about ‘what is making a difference’, Ian took the opportunity to reflect on the work of the High Streets Task Force and its experts in supporting communities on “a transformative journey”, stressing that places need strong partnerships, bringing together property, community, businesses and councils, and highlighting a number of examples of local initiatives that are giving people extra reasons to visit. “I promise you,” he said, “people care about where they live. They have pride in place and want to make it the best it can be. IPM can support that with skills and understanding, but it starts with leadership locally.



Listen now

You can listen to the You and Yours programme on BBC Sounds here: BBC Radio 4 - You and Yours, Call You and Yours: How well does your high street work for you?

This was the synopsis:


Call You and Yours: How well does your high street work for you?

Wilko's closure has thrust the UK's high streets back in the spotlight. Call You and Yours and tell us how your local one is doing. What's working, and what isn't?

The closure of Wilko has put the spotlight back on our town centres - and is leaving huge holes in lots of them. According to the boss of John Lewis, there are already too many boarded up shops, vaping stores and charity shops on Britain's high streets - and it's got to the stage where a Royal Commission needs to investigate.

The health of high streets varies across the country, and we want to hear about the picture where you live. What do you use your high street for, and how is this changing? Perhaps yours works better than it used to - what are the success stories? If you work in a shop, we'd love to hear from you too.



About the author


Formed in 2006, the Institute of Place Management is the international professional body that supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better.

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