Not On The High Street!

Not every high street is struggling!

While some face shop closures, others are thriving with shoppers, eaters and drinkers. In Brighton, vacancy rates are as low as 7 per cent, in Exeter it’s 8 per cent and in Bristol only 12 per cent of shops are empty according to the Centre for Cities – a body set up in 2005 by Lord Sainsbury of Turville as an independent, non-partisan research organisation.

Their research also highlights the high streets that are in the most trouble. Almost a quarter of stores are empty in Newport, 19 per cent in Hull and 21 per cent in Wigan. It’s clear the story varies hugely, with the bad news hitting some city centres while bypassing others.  It cannot all be down to e-commerce as it is as easy to go online to order stuff in Brighton as it is in Wigan.

The Centre for Cities goes on to explain that the more successful high street will house lots of high-skilled jobs, meaning workers are out and about five days out of seven with wages to spend. In contrast, a high street with a lot of vacancies will have a weaker economy – struggling to attract these central, well-paid jobs. Their proposed solution – more office jobs!

Work happens in Brains – not offices

Interesting facts, but any plan to attract more office jobs back into cities is fundamentally flawed.  The demand from workers is for more flexible working – smart working as we like to term it – at least 70% of workers prefer to work smart. We’re sick and tired of this fixed 9-5, Monday to Friday mentality.  We’re fed up with the traffic congestion and it’s effect on our environment. Office jobs will not provide the solution – so what will?

Back to the Future

Smart City Centres will look beyond office jobs.  Smart High Streets have already taken the opportunity to become agile working hubs for the rural and suburban communities they serve? A mix of co-working spaces, homes, unique retail and artisan shops, farmer markets that offer a different retail experience to the out of date chains who have had their day and must now compete online.

Not on the High Street!

Economic Development Authorities are beginning to think differently.  Demand is changing.  The good people of the UK want elements that may not currently be available on our High Streets.  How about more community spaces for art, crafts, culture, business and networking – places that will naturally encourage the wellbeing of their patrons.  Places where people can meet like minded folk to avoid the isolation of remote or mobile working.  Places where people from the rural towns and villages can visit at less congested times.  Places where people can feel a part of the City they live nearest to.

What ideas would you suggest will revitalise your City? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Smart Working Revolution works with business and economic development bodies to consider the impact of the demand for flexible ways of working.  Contact us Ruth or Olly at

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