17 Sep 2013
Last week Appear Here attended the BCSC Showcase - the UK’s largest business to business networking event for the retail and property industry. For the event we constructed two pods to showcase the amazing brands we’ve worked with and the destinations we feature. 1,096 metres of wool, 34 square metres of timber and one pot of paint later - the pods were ready.
Our CEO, Ross Bailey, had been invited to take part in a panel talk; “creating sustainable places - what role for retail?” It was led by Deirdre Hipwell - property consultant for The Times and consisted of experts in city centre development - Andrew Carter, Director of policy and research Centre for Cities, John Alkers Director of Policy & Communications, UK Green Building Council. Alistar Parker, Retail Partner at Cushman and Wakefield.
Andrew Carter kicked things off, challenging the current high street debate,
“the high street debate has focused on shops, and that is entirely wrong; it should be about jobs and city centres.”
Carter pointed out jobs were not being found in city centres as these places have lost their attraction for businesses. He highlighted the correlation between jobs and prosperous places, stressing, “we need to give cities more control, and more freedom to act as they need,” in order for them to become desirable destinations for businesses again.
Alistair Parker argued the Government policies were paralysing our high streets and blamed the restrictions on empty retail spaces being developed. He looked to young people as key in the regeneration,
“We need to try to allow as many things as possible to happen to empty shops so that young people can free the space up and bring in new ideas.”
So how does Appear Here help?
John Alkers raised the point that we're witnessing a gradual transition “from a transactional space to experiential space,” in city centres. And it's here that Bailey believes Appear Here can play a role in making our high streets attractive destinations again:
“We see every empty space as an opportunity for someone to bring a new and exciting experiences to the high street. Brands need to offer something that can’t be matched elsewhere. Whether they're an online brand using an empty shop as a physical showroom or empty spaces becoming a platforms for people to launch innovative businesses. We want to see our high streets filled with ideas”
Another lively debate came from the retail giant Theo Paphitis.
Paphitis took to the stand to argue the case for scrapping business rates in favour of a fairer tax - for him this was “blindingly obvious.” He also took the opportunity to sling a few shots at Portas and Grimsey and their High Street Reports.
The government’s postponement of a rates revaluation from 2015 to 2017 suggests there is no chance of the rates falling until then, which could cause countless retailers to suffer in the meantime.
By getting rid of the business tax Paphitis hopes empty shops will be full of people with drive and ambition, people who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to be there. He argues they’ll be the ones who’ll make the high street a place that people want to see and experience.
Neither of the two current high street reports satisfied Paphitis, Mary Portas’s report was termed “a poisoned chalice” and Bill Grimsey’s, report “bollocks”.
Grimsey defended his report in a press conference after Pahtitis’s talk - acknowledging spearheading business rates as absolutely necessary but overall a “short-term fix.”
However they did agree on one thing, which echoed across the showcase - embracing technology will be key in saving the high street. From booking a physical shop space online, to buying online in store, technology offers many opportunities to enhance the high street experience.
Appear Here would like to thank Hannaford for their support in constructing our pods and the team at BCSC for getting us involved.
Learn more about shop space available to rent in Central London