We’ve just released the results of an ambitious new project to find out what retailers, councillors and the general public think about the services on their high street. The report, called the Community Barometer, shows what people want in their local area and what they think government priorities should be in the future.
When asked about which services they would want more or less of in their local area, retailers saw banks and Post Offices as the two services that they were most keen to see an increase in. Overall, all groups (retailers/consumers/councillors) believed that Post Offices had the most positive impact on their local area. Convenience stores were also a popular choice, especially with councillors 50% of whom thought that independent convenience stores had the most positive impact. As expected, pawnbrokers and betting shops did not fare well at all.
It is clear from the report that people are missing dedicated services like post offices and banks, as well as specialist food offers. This is one of the reasons a growing number of retailers are taking on things like cash machines, Post Office Locals and food-to-go counters in store. More than half of the stores in the sector now have a cash machine and food-to-go is one of the fastest-growing categories in convenience. As retailers take on these important community functions, it is vital they make sure local people and councillors notice that they have done this and give them the credit they deserve.
One of the most interesting findings from the report was the unanimous agreement between retailers, councillors and consumers about the importance of intervention on business rates. We would expect retailers to see this as a priority issue, as they are the ones directly affected by rising rates bills, but for consumers to rate a reduction in business rates a priority ahead of other issues like parking shows that campaigns from trade associations and the media are striking a chord with the general public.
The overall message of the report is simple: people want diversity on their high streets. Specialist shops like butchers, independent stores and financial services are still desirable, and it’s up to the government and local councils to provide the conditions that allow these businesses to thrive.