18 May 2024, 20:44
By Furniture News Mar 10, 2015

Future High Street Summit warns towns not to ignore digital advances

This month’s Future High Street Summit in Nottingham will kick off with a session dedicated to the government’s Future High Street Forum, promising to open the eyes of place managers to the latest reports and programmes that will push town and city centres into the digital age.

“Our Future High Street Forum session is the perfect start to the event and really sets the scene for the discussions we’re going to be having throughout the two-day conference,” says Clare Rayner, founder of the Summit. “We’re hugely excited to be welcoming several leading professionals to the stage and they’ve got some really juicy updates to share with our delegates.

“This year, it’s really important to us that attendees understand how important it is for their high streets to have a digital presence. We are constantly fed new updates that consistently show the rise of online shopping and digital advances; if place-makers don’t recognise and implement solutions to take advantage of this digital revolution, they run the risk of being left in the dark ages!”

The session will be introduced by Helen Dickinson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium. As a key member of the Future High Street Forum, Helen will describe its history and purpose as well as what the future holds for the initiative.

Helen says: “The Forum’s work has touched many areas since it was formed, from guidance on issues like local parking strategies to recognising local successes through the Great British High Streets competition and, most recently, considering the revolutionary impact of digital technology.

“More than £150b of retail sales are influenced by digital but only half of small businesses have a website, and just 33% of SMEs are currently online. It’s suggested that digital technology could unlock £18.8b of revenue for SMEs as well as reducing their costs by up to 20%, so it’s clear that there is a real opportunity for all players in our high streets to tap into this potential and secure their place in the future.”

The Digital High Street Board’s Digital High Street 2020 report has been released, featuring the Board’s recommendations for the revitalisation of the UK’s high streets. The report has prompted the launch of IMRG’s Pathfinder Programme, a new initiative which will work closely with selected towns to cluster digital innovation and short-circuit progress. Louth and Hemel Hempstead will be the first locations to receive the digital makeover.

James Roper, chairman and founder of IMRG, will share further details about the Pathfinder Programme and the Digital High Street 2020 report during his keynote at the Future High Street Summit.

James says: “The internet, e-commerce and latterly m-commerce have been embraced by society in our homes, workplaces and schools, but so far digital has hardly touched our high streets, which are suffering as a result. Our aim with the Pathfinder Programme is to inform, support and enable high street stakeholders to identify and seize new opportunities both within and beyond retail.

“In the new, complex and fast-changing digital world, you simply don’t know what you don’t know – or what is possible or impracticable – if you don’t share experiences and market intelligence with your peers.”

Guy Douglas, principal consultant for the Forum’s Digital High Street Advisory Board, shares the sentiment. He says: “Since June 2014, I have had the pleasure of working on the Digital High Street 2020 report alongside some key names in the business and digital worlds. What has come through loud and clear is the understanding that in order for high streets to really prosper, they need all businesses and other non-retail organisations to be fully able to connect with the modern day tech-savvy customer, as well as the less digitally adept. A rising digital tide should float all the boats.”

Delegates will also be advised on the best methods for digital progression, as Guy’s presentation will look at how critical it is to understand the bringing together of all elements of discoverability, from access technologies to digital skills and being able to use the right tools to connect with the modern consumer.

Caroline Gorski, managing partner for Retail & Leisure at O2 Business, will also discuss the implications of the Digital High Street 2020 report, for which the communications giant provided several recommendations. She says: “The report’s recommendations really underpin what high streets need to do – and how central government, retailers and local authorities can work together to help them stay relevant in a digital world. I’ll be exploring this more in my presentation on experiential retail, where I’ll discuss the digital opportunities that already exist for high streets, and what exciting changes we can expect to see in the future.”

The Future High Street Forum is making advances in far more than just aiding the digitalisation of the high street. At the Future High Street Summit, the Forum’s members will also include Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association.

Brigid, who was a judge for the Great British High Street Awards, will discuss the importance of a retail and leisure mix on the high street, and will use case studies from UK places including Brighton, Colwyn Bay and Bishop’s Waltham.

Brigid says: “The work of the Future High Street Forum is hugely useful in bringing together all those working to invigorate our high streets. I am particularly pleased that the importance of pubs, casual dining and leisure, in both the daytime and night-time economy is recognised.

“With my own involvement with the Forum from a pubs perspective, I have seen so many examples where partnership and leadership are key. Business improvements districts and engaging the private sector have made a real difference in so many places.”

The Future High Street will be held at Nottingham Conference Centre within Nottingham Trent University on 25th and 26th March. For more information on the event and to see the full agenda, visit the Future High Street Summit website.

Tickets for the conference are on sale now and attendees can sign up at www.futurehighstreet.co.uk/register.

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