12:27PM, Friday 04 September 2020
Windsor’s town centre manager is expecting the number of shops in the High Street to continue to fall as firms grapple with the challenging retail environment.
Homeware and clothing giant Laura Ashley became the latest company to shut its Windsor branch last week.
The closure of its two-storey Peascod Street store follows the likes of Karen Millen and Monsoon, who have both ceased trading in the town this year.
Paul Roach, town centre manager for Windsor and Eton, said the town’s retail offering could shrink in the coming years but he remains optimistic it will remain a popular visitor destination.
He said: “Like anyone, we’ve been hit by some of the multinationals that have gone to the wall, which is unfortunate because clearly that will have an impact locally on us, not just because the store’s gone but it’s local jobs for people here.
“We have lost a couple of big brands but I think it’sbecause of the company, it’s not because Windsor is a horrible town where nobody shops.”
Mr Roach said he is hoping empty units like Karen Millen in the heart of the town’s shopping area will continue to operate as shops going forward, rather than be converted into homes.
He added: “I think there is going to be a shrinkage on the High Street but the moment you start converting good ground floor retail space in the heart of town centres, I would take a step back and be looking to speak to the landlord to have a look at this.”
Mr Roach's comments follow posts on social media about the number of empty shops in the town centre.
The town centre manager said the Government should consider supporting the retail industry by running a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme, similar to the initiative launched to support the hospitality industry.
He said: “That would be my big plea and I’ve been talking to people to say, can we do something on the shopping front?
“The onslaught of online is not going to go away. The offer of online has got better during COVID, delivery times are slicker.
“That competition is not going to go away and that’s the challenge for retail. How do they make the experience of coming into the town centre a better one than just simply sitting at home and shopping online?”
In June the Government announced the High Street Task Force would offer a package of support to help High Streets ‘get back on their feet’.
The support, open to councils and organisations, includes free access to online training programmes, webinars, data and intelligence on topics including recovery and coordination, public space and marketing.
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