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  1. ITV Report

Can we save our High Streets ?

What can be done to save our struggling high streets ? Credit: ITV News Central
  • The East Midlands has the highest rate of shop closures (8 per week) outside of London - that's the second-worst rate in the country
  • As of November 2019, across the Central region 13% of shops are vacant - that's more than 4500 units
  • The West Midlands has seen the fastest growth of barber shops in the last twelve months

As retailers take stock after the festive season, and indeed after a decade of turmoil, ITV News is dedicating coverage today to ask - can Britain's high streets can be saved?

With fresh research and exclusive figures on both a national and regional scale, ITV explores whether they are doomed to disappear, or whether some of them can be revitalised through local schemes.

ITV News Central has been speaking to retailers and commerce experts about the problems and potential solutions. Our correspondents Phil Brewsterand Andy Bevan will be reporting on the state of our high streets in the East and West Midlands respectively.

Watch in full on our programme at 6pm - and do get in touch with your views on the issue.

Rounding off a day of coverage will be the Tonight programme at 7:30pm.

So what does the West Midlands' picture around high streets actually look like ? Andy Bevan has been taking a look in the clip below:

And in the East Midlands ?

"Outside of Greater London the East Midlands does have the highest rate of closures at eight per week. Now that's a huge amount of closures.

And if you actually look at that in context, & the fact there are less openings, clearly that's going to leave us a net loss potentially on the High Street".

– Dawn Edwards, from the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce
Debenhams is the latest high-street name to close some stores across the Midlands Credit: PA

The data:

  • Between 2016 and 2019, the number of shops vacant across the Central region has risen from around 4300 to more than 4500, an increase of at least 200 more empty shops
  • Across the Central region, 64% of shops were independents, 36% were chains
  • In the West Midlands, more than 560 shops have changed into housing, offices or warehouses in the last five years
  • In the East Midlands, more than 680 shops have changed into housing, offices or warehouses in the last five years
  • Every town that had a Marks and Spencer store close, saw its vacancy rates rise faster than the national average as a result
  • (Source: Local Data Company for ITV News / ITV Tonight)
W.Mids
Has seen the fastest growth of barber shops in the last 12 months.

What do shoppers think about the state of the high street ? Is it a case of "clicks or bricks" ?

ITV News Central Correspondent Andy Bevan looks at the national numbers at stake in the clip below:

The businesses:

Luisa Vicinanza-Bedi set up her vegan chocolate business in Nottingham two years ago, and thinks the variety of retail outlets gives her part of the city a unique vibe.

Graham from Geek Retreat in Nottingham, says today's high streets and shops need to offer more than just traditional shopping experiences.

And Bruce Nagra and his wife Paramjit run the world's first distillery for lassi gin in Wolverhampton. They say having a high-street presence is crucial to connect with their customers.

One criticism of the High Street has been its uniformity with large chains and brands dominating.

Others believe smaller retail units with cheaper rents could be the way forward, allowing more independent businesses to flourish.

So what's the government's thoughts on the state of the High Street ? They point to the Future High Streets Fund scheme, where around fifty towns across the country will benefit from a billion-pound cash pot to improve transport and access into town centres, convert empty retail units into new homes and workplaces, and invest in vital infrastructure.

"We've just had the first round of bidding. And those areas, those 100 areas that we're working with are working through the business case with government.

But there's also the Towns Fund itself where we're looking for town deals with 100 areas who've bene allocated up to £25 million pounds.

And again we're saying to them 'Come forward with the plan, and we will work with you and back that plan.'

– Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse & Local Growth

Watch more on the future of our high streets at 6pm in the East and West Midlands tonight, and further coverage continues on ITV at 7:30pm, with "High Streets: End of the Road? Tonight".