Experts in fashion, politics, business and regeneration met to discuss the problem of neglected high streets in the North West at a High Street Revival seminar in the Northern Quarter today.
The seminar brought together leading thinkers and practitioners to look at practical cost effective solutions to bring diversity, vibrancy and local shoppers back to the high street.
Guest speakers included 19-year-old Joe Barratt who led Stockport’s successful Portas Pilot bid and award winning fashion boutique owner Paul Turner-Mitchell, who was included in the Drapers 2011 Powerlist as one of the most influential people in fashion.
Speakers are expected to discuss the importance of the independent business to the high street; the proportion of which is now at a surprisingly high average of 66% of all shops in the UK.
Mr Turner-Mitchell has experience success in this area having traded in the 650 square-foot location of his award-winning boutique for a prime 1,600 square-foot spot on the high street last year.
“In Greater Manchester we have thousands of empty shops, around 3,000 across the ten boroughs,” he said.
“This is a problem that is not going to go away.”
Mr Turner-Mitchell suggested that one solution is to add more variation to high streets which people currently view as ‘dull’ or ‘cloned’.
He said: “The high street needs to have more than just shops. We need to draw shoppers in with art galleries, pop-theatres, restaurants and small independent businesses.”
“There are prime opportunities for small business owners to fill the empty spaces on the high street.”
Mr Turner-Mitchell was involved in the Rochdale bid to become a Portas Pilot, the government scheme for funding and regeneration of just 12 neglected high streets across the UK.
The winning towns will receive up to £100,000 in grants and assistance in rejuvenating their high streets to improve the local economy.
Mr Turner-Mitchell today spoke at the conference alongside Mr Barratt, the teenage entrepreneur who led the successful bid for Stockport.
“At the time, Stockport had the highest amount of empty shops,” said Mr Turner-Mitchell.
“It was clear that Grant Schapps was going to award funding across a geographical spread, so Stockport was always the one to beat for us.”
But Mr Tuner-Mitchell had only positive things to say about Stockport and Mr Barratt: “They put in a great bid, Joe worked very hard.”
Mr Turner-Mitchell’s comments reflected the message of the seminar, which encouraged unity between all areas of the North West as well as the district community groups to encourage local shoppers back into the boroughs of Greater Manchester.