Ditch “clone towns” to save the high street


“Town centres go for a ‘me too’ approach and we end up with people trying to create an open air shopping centre,” high street expert Dr Andres Coca-Stefaniak told Parliament this week.

"Town centres often adopt a 'me too' approach in terms of their strategic positioning. We run the risk of them being turned into the equivalent of open air shopping centres," high street expert Dr Andres Coca-Stefaniak (pictured) of the University of Greenwich, told the High Streets and Town Centres in 2030 inquiry this week.

"We need our high streets and town centres to reclaim their personalities. They are losing their souls by copying each other and focusing too much on shopping. They cannot compete with the internet.‎ It's ridiculous to try to beat internet shopping at its own game.

"Tourism - the experience economy and visitor management – is key here. We need eventful town centres like Greenwich, York, Perugia (Italy) or Salamanca (Spain), where retail and tourism are blended seamlessly to create attractive places for residents and visitors. Heritage, identity and quality of life are valued by residents and visitors alike.

"My current research is showing that a vibrant market can also be a catalyst for revitalising town centres. They're often the first chance for young entrepreneurs to test their ideas using pop-up stalls. They meet other traders and share ideas, it gives an area energy and a buzz. Spain has invested in markets and has seen the benefits."