Chamber members Ben (Dylan’s Ice Cream) and Ian (The Haslemere Bookshop) attended a symposium on ‘The Future of British High Streets and Town Centres’ last Wednesday.  Speakers ranged from Helen Dickinson (CEO of the British Retail Consortium) to Jonny Hayes (hardware store owner, driving force behind the hugely successful  ‘Bishy Road’ initiatives in York and Retailer of the Year 2010).
They learned many things, including:
  • The High Street is not dead, but will be different.  No longer just a place to shop – more of that is expected to move online – the successful High Street will be a place people want to spend time because it provides a mix of leisure, entertainment, cultural, educational as well as retail activities;
  • The need for flexibility in use will create big challenges for our local authorities, town councils, landlords, retailers and residents;
  • Against the backdrop of struggling national chains, bank branch and other closures, the role of independent retailers and  innovative users of space will be particularly important;
  • We need a plan;
  • Most significantly, Ian learned that Ben is making gin-flavoured ice cream…