More than half (54%) of independent high street retailers in Wales are optimistic about the future of their local high street, and more than eight out of ten shoppers would miss their local high street if it was gone.
This is according to new research commissioned to launch the Government-run Great British High Street Awards 2018, sponsored by Visa.
The research reveals that despite recent negative economic forecasts and high-profile retail chain closures 38.6% of independent Welsh retailers describe themselves as ‘optimistic’ about the future of their local high street, compared to 18.2% who feel pessimistic about the future of their high street.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon. James Brokenshire MP said at today’s launch: "The Great British High Street Awards acknowledge in a very important way how high streets are so vital to our nation.
“High streets are crucial in creating jobs, nurturing small businesses and driving local and regional economies.
“We want to celebrate the best examples of high streets, as well as those individual businessmen and women playing a leading role.
"The Government is doing everything in our power to ensure high streets continue to thrive."
Suzan Kereere, head of merchant services, Europe, Visa, added: “Visa is very proud to be supporting the Great British High Street Awards at a time when the nation’s high streets are transforming as both technology and consumer behaviour evolve, with consumers looking for a range of different experiences on their high streets.
“Businesses and communities have shown themselves to be highly adaptable, resilient and creative in meeting these demands.
“Visa is committed to finding innovative ways to support merchants and consumers and helping communities and economies to thrive.
“High street merchants help to establish and preserve bonds within communities that are as valuable as the economic benefits they generate.”
The findings also show that building relationships with customers (80%) is what Welsh retailers enjoy most about running their business, with 50% saying their high street is improving.
But the view from shoppers in Wales is less positive, with three quarters (75%) describing their high street as ‘staying the same’ or ‘getting worse’ and almost a quarter (24%) claiming there aren’t enough shops and services on it to meet their needs.
And more than six in ten (63%) say they feel ‘neutral’ or ‘not very optimistic’ about the future of their high street – despite 69% of Welsh shoppers visiting their local high street at least once a week.
However, more than eight in ten (85%) people across Wales would miss their local high street if it no longer existed – and 79% believe it is the people they meet there, in terms of both shoppers and retailers, that make it what it is.
Asked what would encourage Welsh shoppers to visit their high street more, over half (58%) said more shops, more than a third (39%) said better parking or public transport facilities and around one in five (22%) said extended opening hours.
The Great British High Street Awards 2018 competition, which is being run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, sponsored by Visa and backed by other partners is recognising and celebrating local achievements on our high streets and supporting the communities in which we live and work.
It was announced at today’s launch that author and TV presenter Simon Reeve will be a judge for the Great British High Street Awards 2018.
Mr Reeve said: “I’ve spent the last 16 years travelling around the world and investigating what is happening in other countries, so I’m really looking forward to being a bit closer to home and meeting the unsung heroes helping the nation’s high streets to thrive.”
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