Cheaper parking, lower rents and greater local council powers have all been suggested by craft bakery chains as ways to halt the decline of British high streets.
They hope an independent review, led by Mary Portas, will lead to more healthy and diverse town centres, while the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB) has written to the retail guru, inviting her to discuss the problems experienced by craft bakers.
Sayers the Bakers commercial director Mark James said reducing or abolishing parking fees in high streets would make the biggest difference. "You don’t pay at out-of-town shopping centres yet it can be £2 to park in a high street, so you can understand why some people aren’t coming to high streets any more," said James.
Nigel Tubbs, director of The Crusty Cob chain in Exeter, suggested giving local councils more clout to prevent bigger chains moving into an area, causing small independent bakers to close their doors. Said Tubbs: "This has devastating effects in some towns there needs to be some control, otherwise bakers end up killing bakers."
NAMB chairman and Birds of Derby’s Mike Holling said Portas’ idea of asking the supermarkets to contribute a percentage of their profits to high street communities was a good one. He said: "More realistic rentals would be something to aim for, as there are too many empty shops and charity shops and not enough good specialist independent traders in some areas."
Chatwins chairman Edward Chatwin suggested Portas look at planning policy, which had resulted in out-of-town shopping centres being developed, taking the big brands away from high streets. "These centres don’t cater for independent retailers and most towns aren’t big enough for two town centres."
Action for Market Towns has suggested initiatives such as loyalty schemes, independents working together to create virtual local department stores and the use of benchmarking, so towns could focus their efforts.
Portas’ review will be presented to the Prime Minister in the autumn. See maryportas.com.