Future looks bright for high streets, survey finds

By Gill Harris on 24 May, 2019

Independent shops are helping to rejuvenate our high streets, with small businesses and shoppers alike increasingly optimistic about the future.

Marking the launch of the Great British High Street Awards 2019, new research commissioned by Visa shows that, across the UK, 34,511 independent high street shops opened for business last year, up 4.5% on 2017.

In the South West of England, it was found that the high street is the favoured destination for retailers to expand their business, with more than a quarter (29%) of those surveyed planning on opening another high street store in the next 12 months, and three in ten (30%) intending to employ more staff.

Despite recent high-profile retail chain closures, Visa’s research shows an encouraging outlook for the future of high streets in the South West:

  • Three in five (59%) small high street businesses say their local high street is improving;
  • 53% of people visit their local high street at least once a week
  • Local high streets are still the preferred destination for shopping (32%), beating shopping centres (24%) and online shopping (23%)

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “The Government-run Great British High Street Awards celebrate the dedicated shopkeepers, the committed volunteers and forward-thinking councils who together are creating vibrant and dynamic high streets that are loved by their communities.

“Last year more than 200 high streets across the land battled it out in a hotly contested competition to be crowned Britain’s best. I would encourage communities across the nation to enter, so their high streets and the people working in them gain the recognition they fully deserve.”

Jeni Mundy, Visa’s regional managing director for the UK & Ireland, added: “We’re delighted to partner with the Great British High Street Awards for a second year, particularly as our research shows that there is plenty to celebrate on our high streets, and we’re very encouraged to see independent shops playing such an important role in this.”

The Great British High Street Awards 2019, run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in partnership with Visa, has a Champion award to celebrate the UK’s best high streets, and a Rising Star award for those taking the lead and working to adapt and diversify, as well as a High Street Hero Award, which recognises the efforts of individuals.

Nominations can be made by local authorities, Business Improvement Districts and – for the first time – groups of high street retailers. Shortlisted entries will be announced in August 2019.

For more information, visit https://thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk.