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The future of the High Street

The high street has always changed as social trends, fashion and our shopping habits change. Read on to find out business advisor Liz Edwards' take on the future of the high street.

What’s predicted?

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade association for retailers, the growth in costs has increased substantially more than the growth in consumer spending for retailers. Between 1984 and 1994 the difference was 5.4%, 1994 to 2004 14.6% and the latest figures from 2004 to 2014 a huge 31.8%. Alongside this there's been a reduction of 191,000 retail workers from 2008 to 2014, which doesn't make positive reading to anyone working in retail.

BRC believes there are 3 main reasons that the industry will see this decline in jobs continue. These are business rates, the National Living Wage (NLW) and the apprenticeships levy. Business rates and National Insurance account for around 75% of the taxes paid by the retail industry. BRC, although not opposed to the NLW, predict there will be fewer but better jobs as a result of this.

The consortium is also worried that the government is not engaging with the industry in connection to the apprenticeships levy and this could hinder its ability to upskill the workforce for tomorrow’s industrial needs. They highlight that these issues, alongside the fact that 60% of retail leases are due for renewal in the next 5 years, are likely to have a major effect on retail.

The challenge

We know this is not an easy pathway as retail has always been an adapting/changing industry. Now with some of the biggest changes in customers buying behaviour taking place the high street will have to ensure it is fit to compete.

Businesses will need to:

• Ensure they offer high quality goods

• Be price aware

• Have greater productivity

• Maintain the confidence of their customers

• Keep attracting new customers


With major changes outside of the control of retailers what can they do?

One thing is for certain - businesses can’t keep doing what they are doing and not expect to be affected by events beyond their control.

Thee face of retail is changing and it will be the retailers who are willing and able to adapt that will survive. If the consortium is right in their predictions, by 2020 retail as an industry will be much leaner but also much improved in many areas. This doesn't mean doom and gloom for everyone. The Card Factory recently announced a record year, with 50 new shops opened taking their total to 800 across the UK. The company also announced pre-tax profits of £83.7m, almost double on the previous year.

For more insight into the future of retail check out the British Retail Consortium's full report.

How can TDA help your retail business?

Here at the TDA we offer a range of initiatives, projects and support to new and existing retailers looking to grow. Our flagship retail support project, Pop up the High Street, offers businesses the chance to try out the high street, test their products and see if it's right for them. The pop up shop is an ideal testing bed for new retail or online-only businesses, which has supported successful moves into retail units.

The project also provides business support through the Shop up the High Street initiative, which offers free support to independent high street traders. Together with our business advisors you can discuss your current situation and plan for the future, with support in developing your online presence and in other areas.

We know that businesses across Torbay still want to trade on the high street and that the high street will continue to transform itself. We want to help businesses build in the flexibility they will need to succeed.

Find out more

We’d love to hear from you. Email Liz on or visit Shop up the High Street for more information on our retail support projects.

Shop up the High Street Small Business Retail Conference attracts retailers from across Torbay

Shop up the High Street is a free support programme designed to help independent retailers adapt and improve business areas including marketing and footfall. The TDA were granted funding for a High Street Regeneration Project from the Coastal Communities Fund, a portion of which has been invested into the Routes to Retail project, Shop up the High Street. 

To kick start the programme of free support, Shop up the High Street held a Small Business Retail Conference for independent businesses in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham at the Paignton Enterprise Centre, Bishops Place on 11th Jan 2016. 

Shop Up Conference

The intention of the event was to make the Retailers aware of the Shop up projects and the free support offered, further understand the support retailers are looking for. It was also a great opportunity for local small businesses to do some networking!

One of the main aims of the event was to offer out the olive branch to retailers and to make them fully aware of the support they can receive for free. We were also keen to listen to them and understand better the help they might need most.

Shop Up Conference

After a warm welcome from Liz Edwards, the Business Advisor heading up the project, Kevin Shaw kicked off with a fantastic key note speech. Kevin who has had over 40 years worth of experience in retail, gave a fantastic talk and engaged the room by drawing on his personal experiences at one of the big supermarket chains. It was obvious Kevin is very knowledgeable and passionate in his field! 

We were also lucky enough to have guest speakers, Verity Newton and Adam Waddle from Francis Clark run a fantastic Finance Workshop and Brixham based Sophie Bower from Millie and Me and #TorbayHour run a session on Social Media.

There were also two workshops from TDA Business Advisors, Wayne and Kim on Web Analytics and Business Planning.

Shop Up Conference

The Shop up the High Street team were really pleased with the feedback we received from the attendees and we even received a couple of lovely thank you’s. Here’s a lovely email we received from Brixham based retailer, Nicky Stevenson from The Nicky Stevenson Gallery:

Many thanks to you and the team for arranging the conference. It was informative, helpful and the ongoing support available is fabulous. I would like to have sessions with some of the speakers and listed them on my forms. I will also tell others about you and the valuable help that you give.

The Small Business Retail Conference was a success with the retailers, as all wanted to attend further events and workshops. We can’t wait to continue the project and are really pleased to be able this free support!

The next workshop event we’re running will be a Marketing support event based in Brixham on the 24th February. Register now!

Can’t make this event, or looking for different support? Email