The Grimsey Review

Read the Grimsey Review GrimseyReview04.09

High street policy is still very much in its infancy. Governments of all stripes have failed to get to grips with the big issues facing our high streets for years. And now in a period of deep decline there is an arms race for new ideas. We’ve seen reviews, pilots, future high street forums and more. But none of these initiatives are making much impact and there is a frustrating sense of policy being conducted in the margins. The need to grasp the nettle is bigger than ever.

This review has its origins in the publication of the Government commissioned review of the high street carried out by Mary Portas in December 2011. Amid much fanfare this promised the earth but delivered little.

It was clear to me that Portas had failed to highlight to Government the dramatic structural changes impacting the retail industry through the convergence of changing consumer behaviour driven by technology and that brought about by the prevailing economic conditions. This is evidenced by the fact that no less than eight major national household retail names have gone into administration since the publication of the review in less than two years.  None of this was forecast in the review although it was clear to anyone with insight into the retail industry. My frustration led to public criticism of both Mary Portas and the Government for using this serious issue as little more than a PR stunt and to lay the grounds for a lucrative TV makeover show about the Portas Pilot Towns.

After a lifetime spent in retailing, in March of this year I called upon a group of associates who held similar views and challenged them to form a group to effectively ‘put up or shut  up’ and produce our own review.  This would be an in-depth, evidence based piece of work, which we’d offer to all political parties to help give our town centres the chance to thrive and prosper in the future.  A group of eight associates joined me, each bringing a unique set of skills and experience to produce the review that follows. What quickly emerged from their analysis of the retail industry and its supply chains is a sector that should be the envy of the world and yet is treated by central and local government as a low priority. 

When we talk about the high street we’re referring to an industry that comprises some 95,000 companies, employing £326bn of gross assets, borrowing £65bn and with a total net worth of £135bn. Think about that for a second.  This compares with the entire UK education budget of £53bn, the defense budget of £24bn, the Business, Innovation and Skills budget of a mere £13bn – and it’s way more than the health budget of £110bn.