FSB wants businesses to have their say on what the future holds

The Federation of Small Businesses is launching a massive poll of high street firms across the UK to help plan a ‘new golden age of the high street’.

The FSB will launch its The Future of the High Street survey on July 13 to find out how high streets are changing – and to work out what support businesses need from government.

The group wants as many businesses as possible to share their thoughts so the FSB can lobby ministers and political parties ahead of the next general election.

The FSB says the UK’s high streets, which first became a central place of commerce, trade and community during the industrial revolution, are now on the cusp of transformation.

Tina McKenzie, policy and advocacy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “With digitisation changing consumer habits as well as opening new opportunities and challenges for businesses, some of which were hastened by the pandemic, we’re at a tipping point to transform the high street to shore up our economy and our ways of living and working for this century. I’d like to see a resurgence of small high street businesses and a new golden age of the high street.”

The survey of small businesses aims to gather and analyse their experiences, their challenges and their ways of operating.

Those polled will range from retailers and hospitality firms to other businesses based on our high streets including healthcare and professional services firms.

The findings of the Future of the High Street survey will underpin the FSB’s policy recommendations for ministers, and for the government and opposition parties to adopt as commitments in their general election manifestos next year. They will also include recommendations for devolved administrations and local governments.

Recent years have seen the disappearance of many famous high street brands, including Debenhams, with many other big chains undergoing restructuring. That has been blamed on the ongoing move to online commerce as well as changes to shopping habits precipitated by the pandemic, as well as the cost of living crisis.

Tina McKenzie from the FSB says that despite those challenges, small businesses can still thrive on the high street with the right support.

She said that includes: “Investing in a pleasant public realm – so that people naturally want to go and be there is paramount to a thriving small business sector.”

The public seems to agree. In a 2022 study by FSB and Public First, more than 70% of those polled said that they would like to see more small businesses on their high street.. A majority also said that small businesses were more important than large businesses for keeping traditional craft and skills alive (78%), pride in local communities (76%), providing unique services and products (72%), and growing the local economy (57%).

Meanwhile high streets are already seeing some interesting innovations, including the creation of small business co-working spaces, councils taking an old office to provide services, and artists using disused department stores.

The FSB said the right policies could see new innovations, like creating new local banking services through the post office, and said: “It’s a time to reinvent the high street with creative thinking, backed by real public policy.”

And it added: “Clearly, with most people in the UK valuing our high streets, we need as a nation to think creatively and rationally about how we can shape the transformation that is already underway so that our smaller businesses can thrive, and so exciting start-up opportunities are available to new generations and those with entrepreneurial and innovative ideas.”

source: BusinessLive