Can I re-echo what the boss of Marks & Spencer, Steve Rowe said last week: “Don’t believe anyone who says the High Street is dead.”
His comment is particularly pertinent as this week our shops start to re-open with many lucky to survive the stop-go traumas of their businesses due to COVID regulations.
It’s also pertinent that the new Five Valleys shopping centre in Stroud had a grand opening this week after developer Mark Dransfield has so far invested over £17 million into the venture.
Mark is a blunt Yorkshireman who has established similar centres in the North and, to my mind, has the right recipe to make this a commercial success.
Quite simply, he is creating a destination for shoppers. It’s somewhere that’s very different from your normal shopping centre.
That’s exactly what Peel did with Gloucester Quays - making it a destination, not just a shopping centre.
Twenty-nine businesses are already at Five Valleys and 19 local traders occupy the indoor market modelled on the successful Southwark food market in London.
Six apartments have also been built adjoining the centre - all fully let - and more are on the way.
I firmly believe that we really must re-purpose our High Streets like this with far more residential accommodation, especially for young people.
That will bring new life to our High Streets in Gloucestershire - like Stroud - seven days a week.
And over in Cirencester, I have been impressed by the hard work of the town’s Chamber of Commerce.
It has supported Cirencester Locals, a virtual marketplace allowing shoppers to browse and purchase a wide selection of products.
If you want to get involved, visit this link: https://www.cirencesterlocals.co.uk/getinvolved/
The Chamber of Commerce is also launching a town discount and promotions card called My Cirencester, which they hope to roll out to other towns in the Cotswolds.
Great, simple ideas that are designed to help our shops come out of the lockdown.
But the best idea is for all of us to really support our High Streets as we come out of lockdown.
We must now try to buy more local to keep those High Streets alive.