Turning the Dying High Street into a Thriving Community Hub!

At the tail end of 2019, the Centre for Retail Research revealed that in the previous 12 months, approximately 2,750 high street retail jobs had been lost every week. This loss amounts to over 140,000 UK jobs in a single year, a rate which is set to worsen over the coming months. Economists and community activists have watched with apprehension as the amount of visitors to our high streets has dwindled. It seems that the majority of these job losses are a tragic but unsurprising result of the shop closures we have been fearing. We’re once more taking a look at how the UK can save its beloved high streets.

On average in 2018, 14 shops closed on our high streets each day.
In 2019? The daily average leapt to 44.

This dramatic decrease has not been matched by the number of stores opening, leaving the high street in a state of decline. Many are quick to blame the rise of online shopping, and this is borne out in the comparative success of experienced-based establishments. After all, you can’t get an iced frappe or a haircut online!

If so many people prefer to stick to their sofa when making purchases, new shops will continue to fail, disappearing from high streets and town centres altogether.

What makes the high street worth saving?

There is an argument that a decrease in high street retail jobs will be matched by an increase in employment opportunities elsewhere. For example, roles in web technology or out-of-town shopping centres. However, the issue is not this straightforward.

Town centres and high streets provide a central location for community activities – whether these are commercial, charitable or artistic. However even our coffee shops won’t be able to survive a threatening lack of footfall. This will result in fewer opportunities and a huge increase in isolation.

That’s why we at Broxap want to see our high streets and town centres reinstated as the thriving community hubs they have the potential to be.

Street Furniture- Turn the dying high street into a thriving community hub- Broxap

Clearly, experience is key to drawing people in. You can see it in the overbearing influence of customer reviews and the FOMO-fuelled viral marketing of Instagram-able street food and pop-culture themed days out.

You would be forgiven for thinking a high street or small town isn’t up to meeting these needs. But that’s exactly why local authorities and town planners need to start by taking a step back and focusing on the basics.

It’s time to invest in people from every social group by making the high street as appealing and welcoming as possible.

What puts people off the high street?

Many people feel they can’t spend much time in public spaces due to a lack of seating.

We all need space to ‘recharge’ after becoming tired. It’s important to remember that many people find that the need to rest arises much more frequently for them than it does for others. That’s why poor provision of resting space can deter people from visiting high streets; fatigue and pain will not wait patiently until errands are complete.

Insufficient public seating should concern all of us, and not just because of the prospects of our towns and high streets; it excludes anyone who is less mobile, whether that’s down to injury, age, chronic illness, or even just an off-colour day.

The campaign ‘Stand up for Sitting Down’ focuses on getting more seating placed on our high streets. You can read more about Anchor’s campaign on their website.

Broxap have a great range of options which can be used to increase the amount of suitable seating available for those who are less mobile. The specialist Lubenham Seat – part of the ReGerO range – boasts ‘Senior Citizen Friendly’ features such as a uniquely designed footrest and a seat height of 520mm.

Street Furniture - Turning the Dying High Street into a Community Hub- Broxap

Lubenham Seat

Lack of pride is a self-sustaining problem.

Lots of us decide on whether we want to go somewhere based on the cleanliness of the area. This means that a cleaner town will welcome more people.

More rubbish means less local pride, leading to a decrease in the care residents take and an increase in vandalism and littering… and so the cycle continues. It therefore follows that you can expect there to be fewer shoppers in a town centre with fewer bins!

Many areas of the UK need vast improvements to the refuse facilities they provide, and it’s a simple change to address. The first step may be to increase the number of bins, or the size of them. However you can take this further by using vibrant colours or interesting logos and designs. Take a look at our case study on Waste Reduction in Boston, Lincolnshire for an example of how this might look in practice.

Another problem faced by local authorities is the management of litter bins once they’re installed. Some use high capacity litter bins to solve this issue but some go even further, using a clever bit of technology to help operatives ‘Be Smart about Waste Management’.

NetBin Info Graphic - Turning the High Street into a Thriving Community Hub- Broxap

How the ‘NetBin’ works.

On top of practical changes such as benches or bins, other changes which you can make to your high street include installing planters, or using tree grilles. These will improve the town’s appearance. Having large planters can provide a natural element to even the most urban locations. And everyone can benefit from the beauty which can be created within these areas.

Thornhill Benches - Turning the dying high street into a thriving community hub- Broxap

Crewe Town Centre, Cheshire

Thornhill Benches - Turning the dying high street into a thriving community hub- Broxap

Crewe Town Centre, Cheshire

Having a well presented high street could help to encourage shoppers to use our high streets. Creating a nice environment is in our eyes pinnacle to increasing the number of people in our town.

Shopping in the High Street boasts many different benefits, from being able to try on the latest outfit, to the social implications of sitting in a nice café. Getting out and about can help to banish loneliness and also allow people to get more exercise and fresh air!

Everyone, no matter what age can begin to enjoy the High Street again this year. So let’s stand together to ‘save our high streets’ and encourage more people to bring their business back to our streets.