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Mary Portas pilots: Lessons from the revamp of Croydon's struggling Old Town

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Quick tips to help high-street retailers

This article is brought to you in partnership with Shopfitting Warehouse

The high street is in chaos. More than 25,000 shops have closed in the last 10 years and big names have been brought down. According to London’s leading retail consultant and television personality, Mary Portas, who the government has turned to for solutions, the high streets could disappear forever if urgent action is not taken.

Her independent enquiry, dubbed ‘The Portas Review’, sets out 28 recommendations for strengthening Britain’s high streets which include establishing a ‘National Market Day’ where budding entrepreneurs can have a go at opening their own market stall, revamping shop fronts and putting in place ‘Town Teams’ which will manage operations on each town’s high street.

In Portas’s opinion, high streets should be ‘attractive, accessible and safe’. Twelve town centres, including Croydon, in Greater London were been selected to be transformed, in order to pilot the recommendations of the Portas Review.

Croydon’s Old Town has been awarded £100,000 to spend on new schemes; one focus will be on increasing the variety of stalls on Croydon’s Surrey Street market and shops will be encouraged and supported to give their appearance’s a makeover.

Top tips for Portas-style success

If you’re a retailer and want to make sure your establishment doesn’t go the same way as the one in seven on the High Street which are empty units, there are a few things you can do. Even if you are not in an area affected by Portas’s scheme, following a few simple principles will help you to win the battle for survival:

Build a relationship with your community: Portas believes that high streets are an important part of pulling people together so make your shop part of this. Take part in local and trade events to build strong links with suppliers, customers and colleagues. Check out major UK event listings here.

Don’t under-estimate the power of visual merchandising: According to Mary Portas, it is very important to ‘create a pleasing and exciting visual experience’ in your shop. This doesn’t even have to be expensive; just giving your fixtures and fittings a rethink can work wonders: Shop Fitting Warehouse offer a range of customer friendly clothes rails and even chrome shelving which will help to display products which seem upmarket at a fairly low cost, ‘Pile it high, sell it cheap’ is no longer the way to go.

Find out what others think: A fresh pair of eyes might see things that need improvement in your shop that you will miss. Consider doing a customer questionnaire before making rash decisions, ask customers what they think and then act on their feedback. After all, it’s their opinion that really counts.

For more information about what’s will be happening Croydon, other Portas Pilot towns and on high streets across the country read the government’s full policy report on improving high streets and town centres online now. 

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