Corporate News

How Maidenhead became a showpiece of high street regeneration

Leaders from some of the UK's largest businesses recently visited Maidenhead to discuss the challenges facing the UK's high streets and how Business in the Community is tackling these problems.

The visit, which took place on Thursday 5 February, was organised by Business in the Community's Seeing is Believing Programme to bring together senior business leaders and give them an insight into the current and future challenges the UK's high streets face.

Sponsored by Santander and led by Simon Roberts, Boots UK's Managing Director, Health & Beauty UK and ROI, and co-chairman of the Government's Future High Streets Forum, the visit also gave BITC the opportunity to demonstrate some of the solutions that are being conducted by its Healthy High Street programme, an initiative to boost footfall, reduce the number of retail units, create jobs and restore a sense of pride.

After initial introductions by Simon Roberts and Business in the Community's Chief Executive, Stephen Howard, the delegates were given a tour of the local high street to gain first-hand experience of the issues Maidenhead is facing. Throughout the day they heard from a number of local business managers from Boots, Santander, Marks & Spencer and the Co-operative in their capacity as High Street Champions.

The walkabout on Maidenhead high street was followed by a presentation from store managers and representatives of local town centre partnerships from Lowestoft, Penzance and Plymouth to further demonstrate some of the initiatives being adopted by other towns that have joined the Healthy High Streets programme.

Following the presentations about local activities, the delegates were invited to hear from several experts and to understand the changing context of high streets, showcasing the particular challenges posed by underused property and the changing demands of digital-savvy consumers
Panellists included: Mark Williams, Chairman of the Distressed Town Centre Property Taskforce and author of Redefining the shape and purpose of town centres; Andrew Cribb, Managing Director of 3Space, a social enterprise which unlocks the value of empty commercial property for the community; and IBM's Head of Retail, Martin Butler, who also sits on the digital taskforce of the Government's Future High Streets Forum.

Delegates were then welcomed to give their opinions on what they had seen and heard throughout the day, as well as share some of their own thoughts on what can be done to revive the prospects of the UK's high streets.
Simon Roberts said: "As we focus on what's needed to regenerate our high streets it's striking to me that both customers and communities are changing faster than ever, but the level of commitment to local collaboration and partnership from business hasn't yet moved quickly enough to meet this rapidly changing consumer expectation.

"The visit to Maidenhead and the engaging discussions between the senior business leaders were very productive and clearly showed what can be possible through local partnerships. There is clearly strong evidence for large corporates to work more closely with small businesses."