Q&A: Bill Grimsey on the alternative future for the high street

Former Wickes and Iceland CEO Bill Grimsey will today present his Alternative Future for the High Street review to ministers and business leaders at parliament. 

This report aims to address the failings of the Portas Review, which managed to almost completely ignore the part that the web and digital technology has to play in offline retail.

Bill Grimsey’s report places digital at the centre of his plan for the recovery of the UK’s high streets, with the idea of ‘Networked High Streets’.

Bill Grimsey’s research further supports Econsultancy’s own research on How The Internet Can Save The High Street, which we published last year as a kind of antidote to the Portas study.

I’ve been asking Bill about his report, how technology can be used in future high streets, and how his report differs from the Portas Review… 

The Future High Streets Forum launches. Why no mention of digital?

I was both delighted and dismayed to read last week about the creation of the government led, Future High Streets Forum.

If you haven’t heard about it, the forum brings together leaders across retail, property and business to ‘advise government on the challenges facing high streets and to help develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt and change’.

Sounds fantastic I thought. Clearly, the high street is suffering. We’ve seen a number of big name casualties over the last couple of years (and many thousands of smaller independents go under that receive little or no publicity). A walk through my home city of Brighton provides evidence enough that all is not well with the high street with boarded up properties aplenty.

Therefore, a group that includes high-level representatives from the likes of Alliance Boots, Costa Coffee, John Lewis Partnership and The British Retail Consortium, with a remit to ‘focus on future high street renewal’, must be a good thing.

But then I read the fine print…and sighed…heavily.

How retailers are taking online innovation to bricks and mortar

How many times have you walked past a shop window to see a mannequin with only one arm and clothes draped haphazardly?

This has become an all too common sight on today’s British high street and one that today’s consumers are more conscious of given the increasing online retail market.

Smart retailers need to do more to enchance the in-store experience for today’s tech-savvy shoppers.