A high street renaissance?

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Amid the spoils of a slow news day – awash with hysteria about Cameron’s baby and yawnsome analysis of X factor’s first episode – not to mention a cat in a bin (it is August after all), I was heartened to read a small feature that will hopefully have much louder ramifications over the coming months.

The high-street, it appears, is on the verge of a renaissance. Research from The Retail Insider has shown high streets are fighting back against the continued threat from out-of-town sites and online shopping, with increasing evidence showing that shoppers are recognising the value of their local stores.

For the first time in many years, footfall trends show the high street is performing better than retail parks. According to Experian Footfall Data, retail parks experienced a worrying decline of 2.7 per cent during July, compared with a lesser 0.6 per cent fall recorded for the retail market as a whole.

In sharp contrast, BDO found that like-for-like sales on the high street were up by a healthy 5.8 per cent for the week ending 8 August. The stats are from two different sources and covering differing periods, but according to The Retail Insider: “an interesting trend seems to have emerged.”

The Centre for Retail Research weighed in with the results of a UK survey, which found 10 per cent of city dwellers now shop locally three times per week, compared with only once a week three years ago. Grocery experts IGD, also found a net 24 per cent of people expected to be using specialist neighbourhood stores more often by 2012.

Having previously worked in Manchester’s King Street, and seen its miserable decline, it’s heart warming to see that the game is far from over for the high street. However, with pressure from online retailers, it is clear the high street is going to have to work harder than ever, to claw back the punters.

It seems that a quick sweepstake of retail success stories shows that creativity is at the heart of the fledgling boom, as independents look to deliver what sitting at home simply can’t.

 If this trend is to continue, it is the individuality of the shopping experience which is going to win back the punters. Pop-up retail is one trend that is driving retail innovation (loving your work Hey Little Cupcake!), whilst street food festivals and German markets have all helped boost footfall to town centres when implemented by local councils.

As the four month gong to Christmas was sounded out by Scott Mills yesterday, the high street is set for its most lucrative quarter of the year yet.  Let’s hope the rise in consumer confidence is set for an upward trajectory, and I for one will see you down the high street.