Belfast Telegraph

High streets 'irrelevant to needs of shopping'

By Peter Cripps

A veteran retailer has urged the Government to reject Mary Portas's plans to save the high street, claiming many shopping streets are "in a death spiral".

Majestic Wine chairman Philip Wrigley, an ex-director at Debenhams and BHS, likened high streets to the shipbuilding industry and said many should be converted to housing.

In a speech at Oxford University, he said many shopping streets were "irrelevant to the needs of shopping today" as people chose instead to shop on the internet or at supermarkets and out-of-town malls.

He said the findings of TV star Portas's review into how to save the UK's high streets, which has an average of one in six shops empty, held the "right diagnosis, wrong prescription".

The self-styled Queen of Shops made 28 recommendations to the Government, including setting up national market days, "town teams" and introducing more free parking.

But Mr Wrigley said: "Unlike Mary Portas, I don't think we can continue to try and muddle through, supporting the traditional high street model.

"There comes a point when the vacancy rate is so high no new retailers will come in to a location as they don't want to be sited among empty shops.

"It is, in effect, a death spiral."