We have released the results of an ambitious new project to find out what retailers, councillors and the general public think about the services on their high street. The report, called the Community Barometer, uncovered what people want in their local area and what they think government priorities should be in the future.
When asked which services they would want more or less of in their area, retailers saw banks and Post Offices as the two services that they wanted to see an increase in. Overall, all groups (retailers / consumers / councillors) believed Post Offices had the most positive impact on their local area. Convenience stores were also a popular choice, especially with councillors – with 50% thinking convenience stores had the most positive impact.
It is clear from the report that people are missing dedicated services like post offices, banks and specialist food offers. This is one of the reasons a growing number of retailers are taking on things like cash machines, Post Office Locals and food to go counters in store.
An interesting find from the report was the unanimous agreement amongst all groups about the importance of intervention on business rates. Consumers rated business rates a priority, showing that campaigns from trade associations and the media are striking a chord with the general public. In addition, it is clear that the debate about out of town planning remains unresolved. 25% of consumers and 43% of councillors believe that putting town centres first when considering planning applications should be a priority.
Lastly, we asked the three groups to rate their council’s performance in various areas. While overall satisfaction with councillors was high, retailers saw planning policy and crime prevention as the areas which needed most improvement. Furthermore, while stores had strong relationships with schools and charities, 3 in 10 retailers claimed to have no relationship with their local councillors.
The overall message of the report is simple - people want diversity on their high streets. Specialist shops like butchers, independent stores and financial services are still desirable, and it’s up to government and local councils to provide the conditions that allow these businesses to thrive.