As the lockdown is progressively lifted social distancing restrictions are expected to remain in place for some time. Emerging evidence from Germany is that customers are not returning to high streets when restrictions are lifted; with one of the reasons being cited that while restaurants and bars remain closed the shopping experience is not the same; reinforcing a well understood rationale for high streets. In addition, customers are less likely to travel using public transport so local centres take on an even greater importance.
The summer period is vital for businesses in the hospitality sector. Longer days and warmer weather mean opportunities for outdoor dining and drinking, and a subsequent increase in sales. If these businesses can’t open in the summer they are far more likely to fail. It is also likely to coincide with the withdrawal of central government business support thereby compounding this challenge.
In addition, many high street businesses will be too small to viably reopen with social distancing measures in force and the public spaces around them too restricted to encourage customers to return in sufficient numbers. This isn’t a matter of business’ viability but one of premises viability; i.e. the physical spaces are no longer appropriate to support a viable business. Therefore if businesses fail there will not be the normal replacement rate.
So what can Councils do to support their high streets businesses through the period of significant change and disruption?
Please download the document below which sets out a suite of measures and interventions that Councils could adopt and the business case for doing so.