News

Portas report welcomed by Daunt

Free local parking, better support from the government on business rates, and mentoring for smaller shops from the larger retailers are among the recommendations from Mary Portas in her report on the future of the high street, published today (13th December).

The government-commissioned report has already garnered support from Waterstone's m.d. James Daunt who said it "holds much sense".

Independent booksellers have complained that high business rent and rates, the rise of online retailing and expensive parking are among the major challenges for bookshops trading on the high street.

Today the "Mary Queen of Shops" presenter recommended that local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes, and called for a parking league table to be created to make public which town centres are the most expensive.

The retail "guru" said that "more could be done" to make business rates work for high street businesses, observing: "Quite frankly, the costs of trading in many areas far outweigh the benefits of being in a town." However she stopped short of making a specific suggestion on how the government should move on the issue.

Portas said that landlords should better support their business tenants. "Both landlords and tenants need security and stability and a new contract of care should help to keep landlords’ properties filled and businesses’ profits following. I want to see a new relationship between landlords and business tenants, with landlords feeling like they have a stake in the success of their tenants’ business and a shared aspiration—essentially supporting them to thrive," she said.

She called for the idea of "alternative lease structures" to be investigated, increasing the availability of monthly rather than quarterly in advance payment terms, for business with cash flow problems.

With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years and the total consumer spend away from our high streets over 50%, Portas is championing the idea of making the high street more of an entertainment destination, which is where out-of-town shopping centres such as Westfield has succeeded.
 
In her "vision" of what a successful town centre will look like, Portas said: "I want to put the heart back into the centre of our high streets, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, well-being, creativity and learning . . . The new high streets won’t just be about selling goods. The mix will include shops but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places."

Portas suggests establishing a National Market Day to encourage "talented people who have something to sell" and calls on the government to make it easier for people to trade at markets. "Instead of needing to jump through certain hoops of licenses and regulations, why can’t we proceed on the assumption that anyone can trade on the high street, unless there is a valid reason why not?"

Other of her recommendations include putting in place a "Town Team": a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets, empowering successful Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become "Super-BIDs" and running a high profile campaign to get people involved in Neighbourhood Plans.

Waterstone's m.d. James Daunt commented: "I've always believed that booksellers should be at the heart of the communities they serve, and that is exactly what we are doing with Waterstone's. Mary Portas obviously has a similar, strongly held philosophy and her report holds much sense."
 
The government is expected to respond to the Portas Review in the spring.

Comments: Scroll down for the latest comments and to have your say

By posting on this website you agree to the Bookseller comments policy. Comments go direct to live please be relevant, brief and definitely not abusive. Report any "unsuitable comments by clicking the links"

Actually, the Prime Minister asked her to and one of her suggestions is that each town should have a specialist team dedicated to keeping the high street alive. Her report is being mentioned here because there are still a few booksellers on the high street.

Anyone interested in this article should read the following:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2013977/Fashion-life-A-trip-...

Who is she?

Who IS she?

Dauntaholic, Mary Portas was asked to take on this project by the current Government, and she talks a lot of sense.

I like your reference to an '80s band fronted by George Michael, but that's about all I understand of this comment.

Eh, if Maggie or whatever her name is, owned property and was leasing it to struggling retailers, what support would she be offering? Anyone looking at commercial property news knows landlords have bills to pay too.

I see Westfield gets a positive mention.

What a coincidence.

I can see her point, but she mentioned on the BBC we should have gyms on the high street - when I've been to the gym I have no desire to pop around the shops or stop for a coffee!
Free parking would be great - but it's one of the few ways local goverment make any money, so it won't happen. I have asked if we could have a validation parking scheme (If they spend money in the shopping centre then they get free parking) I was told they had looked into it but not all the shops in the centre would sign up!

I'm guessing the Bookseller rang Daunt for a quote to give this a reason to put the article on the website...I don't think anything either of them say will make a blind bit of difference, Portas is relying on everyone with the power to make change happen is forward thinking and proactive...she needs to come to my town to witness procrastination in action!

The high street deteriorated when:
Too difficult/expensive to park
Same old same old chain stores selling the same stock which you can find better ranges in out of town free parking shopping centres and not get wet.
Rise of the supermarkets
Too many £1 shops making it look tat.
Internet trading.

Markets in the freezing cold will not solve these problems!

Who are any of them ?

Tenents beware at the end of lease terms, some landlords are taking on tenents at very low rents, just to break even over this period..... then WHAM ! you get a very big dilapidations bill at the end of the term which can be their profit on the lease.
if you in your final year of a lease, look up schedule of dilapidations on google, and books !!!
its a freekin scary place to be !!!!!!!!!!!!!

ARGH!

I'd wish people would give a warning before linking to the Daily Mail.

If parking goes free then Councils will have to put up council tax and we still won't be able to afford to shop. Plus people will start complaining that commuters are using the carparks and clogging up spaces. Charges need to come down, but there are reasons why they started charging in the first place.

As to lower business overheads, all well and good but landlords are locked into high repayments with their banks dating back to the boom years and beyond and so I fear they would just pocket the difference and not pass it on to the tenants (in the form of lower rents).
The whole system is broken.

I don't really care for the Conservative's or Cameron, but aleast he asked for his review, no previous government has even thought to look at why the British High Street appears to be doomed.
The negitivity on this website staggers me, life may be hard but aleast people are talking about doing things to help the High Street and especially bookshops. The plight of the bookshop rarely goes a day with being in the press which can hardly be said for other trades, no one bemoaned the disappearance of the Recordshop until it was way to late.
On the parking front, free parking doesn't mean that cummuter's will take over, if you introduce time limited free parking, people can't park there all day.
Mary is also a key figure in retail, she may not own a retail business in the same way a lot of us do, but she is well known to the general public and if we want things to happen the public have to support us, so using her was a great idea, and if you don't know who she is (re earlier comments) you really don't know what your talking about.
May main concern is lets hope that Cameron actually acts on what she says rather than doing it lip service!

Well, if Daunt welcomes the report it must be OK.

Who are you?

philosophical questions abound...

mais naturellement

No one, no one at all.

The idea of the High Street as some sort of social magnet just no longer stacks up in a fractured, digital age where information moves a little bit faster than the brass band marching round the war memorial. People have deserted the High Street in droves, partly because of the one-size-fits-all composition endlessly repeated up and down the land, and partly because over-inflated rents/business tax/parking charges/etc make it impossible to compete with online retail. I welcome James Daunt's desire to fuzz round the edges Waterstones, but frankly the shops at the moment are dire - smart people only go there to check out the product before buying it online. The idea that customers and staff sit around in the equivalent of some sort of literary salon harks back to the halcyon days of bookshops like Shakespeare and Co and Compendium. Not least because the format of the book itself is under threat, and rightly so.

I dislike this woman. She seems to have taken on a role nobody asked her to, and is insisting she knows what will work.
Er, is every town not different?
I think you'll find they are.
Why this deserves a mention on this website is beyond me... further proof as to the adoration of James Daunt?

Well, if Daunt welcomes the report it must be OK.

I dislike this woman. She seems to have taken on a role nobody asked her to, and is insisting she knows what will work.
Er, is every town not different?
I think you'll find they are.
Why this deserves a mention on this website is beyond me... further proof as to the adoration of James Daunt?

Actually, the Prime Minister asked her to and one of her suggestions is that each town should have a specialist team dedicated to keeping the high street alive. Her report is being mentioned here because there are still a few booksellers on the high street.

Dauntaholic, Mary Portas was asked to take on this project by the current Government, and she talks a lot of sense.

Eh, if Maggie or whatever her name is, owned property and was leasing it to struggling retailers, what support would she be offering? Anyone looking at commercial property news knows landlords have bills to pay too.

They do, but how does having an empty, overpriced space help pay those bills? Having an empty storefront doesn't help the landlord, the community or other high street shops.

Who is she?

Who IS she?

Who are any of them ?

Who are you?

philosophical questions abound...

No one, no one at all.

I see Westfield gets a positive mention.

What a coincidence.

mais naturellement

I can see her point, but she mentioned on the BBC we should have gyms on the high street - when I've been to the gym I have no desire to pop around the shops or stop for a coffee!
Free parking would be great - but it's one of the few ways local goverment make any money, so it won't happen. I have asked if we could have a validation parking scheme (If they spend money in the shopping centre then they get free parking) I was told they had looked into it but not all the shops in the centre would sign up!

I'm guessing the Bookseller rang Daunt for a quote to give this a reason to put the article on the website...I don't think anything either of them say will make a blind bit of difference, Portas is relying on everyone with the power to make change happen is forward thinking and proactive...she needs to come to my town to witness procrastination in action!

If parking goes free then Councils will have to put up council tax and we still won't be able to afford to shop. Plus people will start complaining that commuters are using the carparks and clogging up spaces. Charges need to come down, but there are reasons why they started charging in the first place.

As to lower business overheads, all well and good but landlords are locked into high repayments with their banks dating back to the boom years and beyond and so I fear they would just pocket the difference and not pass it on to the tenants (in the form of lower rents).
The whole system is broken.

I don't really care for the Conservative's or Cameron, but aleast he asked for his review, no previous government has even thought to look at why the British High Street appears to be doomed.
The negitivity on this website staggers me, life may be hard but aleast people are talking about doing things to help the High Street and especially bookshops. The plight of the bookshop rarely goes a day with being in the press which can hardly be said for other trades, no one bemoaned the disappearance of the Recordshop until it was way to late.
On the parking front, free parking doesn't mean that cummuter's will take over, if you introduce time limited free parking, people can't park there all day.
Mary is also a key figure in retail, she may not own a retail business in the same way a lot of us do, but she is well known to the general public and if we want things to happen the public have to support us, so using her was a great idea, and if you don't know who she is (re earlier comments) you really don't know what your talking about.
May main concern is lets hope that Cameron actually acts on what she says rather than doing it lip service!

Tenents beware at the end of lease terms, some landlords are taking on tenents at very low rents, just to break even over this period..... then WHAM ! you get a very big dilapidations bill at the end of the term which can be their profit on the lease.
if you in your final year of a lease, look up schedule of dilapidations on google, and books !!!
its a freekin scary place to be !!!!!!!!!!!!!

I like your reference to an '80s band fronted by George Michael, but that's about all I understand of this comment.

its the Bill you get from your Ex-landlord, that he charges you to "put the property back" to how you recieved it.
even if, in your opinion, you made huge improvements, decorated, tidied, sorted and generally made it into a shop from a shell.
they dont really want it back to the shell it was, but they like to charge you as if they do, very heavily.
so they charge you rent for a 3 year lease [for eg] at breakeven cost. [thats no profit, but costs covered] and then at the end bill you for dilapidations - then if they dont do the work, or do it for less than the dilapidations bill = PROFIT from rental.
it did suggest using google to look up "schedule of dilapidations" or look it up in a book. [this being a book site]

It was more the lack of grammar, punctuation and spelling that threw me.

I didnt proclaim to be a writer, then I could work from home.
I was an indi retailer that has just received a VERY large bill for works the landlord "wishes" to carry out to return the said property (which i left 5 months ago) to the shambolic state i got it in.

I was just trying to make people aware so maybe they could avoid this happening, or help themselves by looking into it a little bit.
It is bad enough losing the business to the multi retailers, and closing down, staff losing employment, myself losing employment, then 5 months later still getting a bill the equal of 2 years rent through the door.
many indoe being sole traders are liable for the bill not limited companies that shut down and leave the trail of debt.

{please feel free to re write / edit / grammer check / correct as you see fit.}

Anyone interested in this article should read the following:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2013977/Fashion-life-A-trip-...

ARGH!

I'd wish people would give a warning before linking to the Daily Mail.

The idea of the High Street as some sort of social magnet just no longer stacks up in a fractured, digital age where information moves a little bit faster than the brass band marching round the war memorial. People have deserted the High Street in droves, partly because of the one-size-fits-all composition endlessly repeated up and down the land, and partly because over-inflated rents/business tax/parking charges/etc make it impossible to compete with online retail. I welcome James Daunt's desire to fuzz round the edges Waterstones, but frankly the shops at the moment are dire - smart people only go there to check out the product before buying it online. The idea that customers and staff sit around in the equivalent of some sort of literary salon harks back to the halcyon days of bookshops like Shakespeare and Co and Compendium. Not least because the format of the book itself is under threat, and rightly so.

The high street deteriorated when:
Too difficult/expensive to park
Same old same old chain stores selling the same stock which you can find better ranges in out of town free parking shopping centres and not get wet.
Rise of the supermarkets
Too many £1 shops making it look tat.
Internet trading.

Markets in the freezing cold will not solve these problems!

Towns get the high streets they deserve. If nobody is willing to support interesting shops, let them have dull ones, selling the same homogenized pap from Land's End to John O'Groats. Let them have surly, ill-educated staff too, who know nothing and care less about the goods they zap through the tills, thinking only of when their shift ends and they can go out to do something fun. And when these lucky consumers ask what happened to all the butchers, booksellers, winemongers and grocers they remember from the Good Old Days, show them that nauseating article in the Daily Mail.

I live in the West Country. The largest largest shopping "high streets" round here charge up to 10 pounds to park on a Saturday morning, are infested with stroppy traffic wardens who hassle you when you stop to pick up a passenger and offer dodgy park and ride (which is useless if you have bought large items).To add to these woes the shops are all the same even down to the stock strewn all over the floor and the bored assistants. Sod the high street, why shouldn't I shop online ?

I live in Northumberland. Bondgate Within,in Alnwick, which won an award this year as Britain's best shopping street, has a wonderful selection of family-owned independent shops. Each one is a joy to visit. If every town was like Alnwick, Mary Portas would be out of a job.

Having visited Alnwick in September this year, I can only agree wholeheartedly with Strontium Labrador's comment. It is one of the liveliest, most attractive towns I have ever visited in England and I hope it continues its success.

Ah, Pixie. I thought you might be a bookseller. You talk a lot of nonsense. Perhaps you should stick to muffins.

Ah, the reasoned response......

I am sure Mary Portas would agree that great service and well motivated staff making a store to be proud of helps! Let's hope Waterstone's goes that way!

A high street retailer such as Waterstones, HMV or the thousands of independants will employ 10 times (in the interest of made up statistics this figure may be incorrect) the number of staff that an online retailer has to employ. These extra people earning a wage are all consumers themselves and may even spend money on whatever it is you do to earn a living. They are also people who are paying taxes, not claiming benefits, not sitting around at home dreaming up ways to get rich quick, not rehearsing for X Factor, not rioting and not stealing your TV. If all your pennies go to Mr and Mrs Amazon very few other people will see it. Certainly not the taxman. if something can be done to boost the high street i'm all for it.

Oh, you're SOOOO right!

So many independent retailers woke up too late to realise that their customers were no longer totally reliant on whatever they chose to sell them. Out of town centre supermarkets offered a wider range of choices (although that range diminished once they had your custom, but it was too late by then) and high business rates and rising rents dealt the hammer blow. Unfortunately, few people can afford to eschew the lower prices (for some cleverly selected items) and convenient one-stop shopping offered by supermarkets, even though their heart may still be with the independent retailer. We have to come up with a plan to resurrect the dead heart of so many of our towns, and I believe the answer is not to try and reinvent the past but to look for ways to combine services with social activities, and leisure areas with specialist shops.Some of the empty shops will have to be changed in to housing units, some joined together to offer perhaps a combined and professionally staffed library/bookshop/cafe/post office/CAB - the possibilities are endless but it has to be properly done. None of this "volunteer" nonsense that assumes there are endless numbers of unemployed folk willing and able to take on everything and run it consistently and effectively.

The Bat says: Hey! Let's open a debate with shopkeepers about the parlous state of the British High Street, and Hey! let's do it in the busy two week run-up to Christmas. Yup! Finger on the pulse....

An alternative view of the Portas report (alternative to Daunt and also the BA:( http://monographer.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/the-future-of-bookselling-re...

The High Street is dead.
Everyone can see it yet nobody wants to admit it.

You can get almost anything online cheaper... so why wouldn't people do that?
It is only people in the industry or who work in the shops who champion the stores. Customers really don't care.
Sure, some real readers will always prefer to go to a shop to browse, talk to knowledgable staff, etc, but the majority of our the people who buy the books that populate the charts (Guinness, Lee Evans, Martina Cole, etc) will get the books at the cheapest price they can.
So, supermarkets and the internet have won and bookshops should just give up trying to compete and should instead focus on quality.
I suggest Waterstone's needs to close around 30% of its stores to claw some profit back.

Mon Dieu, you sound just like Daphne Bentwater....

Ooh, get you.