If we are going to create a better society and promote community wellbeing, then we must work together, and use our local expertise to listen and implement change in our town centres. It’s the responsibility of all of us to think locally, and collaboration is the way that we’ll map out a new future. That’s according to VIVID Chief Executive, Mark Perry, who led a discussion with retail expert and well-known broadcaster, Mary Portas, at this year’s virtual VIVID event.
The virtual event took place last week and brought together industry leaders, professionals and commentators to debate a new era of life in town centres, and how we can work together to create vibrant communities. Mark Perry led an insightful conversation and Q&A session with Mary Portas, to delve into how we can continue to deliver the best services in these changing and challenging times.
The speakers focussed on the social, cultural and economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on town centres and its local communities, from store closures, to job cuts and loss of consumer income. The conversation delved into how these changes have meant people are altering the way they live and shop, and that town centres need to adapt to meet these new needs in order to survive.
Mary Portas said, “To create thriving communities, it’s inherently important that sectors come together and work together. It’s no longer landlords here and councils there - councils need to make sure the shops fit their community, and they must encourage a mix of retailers, including local vendors. The home is more than the 4 walls we live in, and as humans we are wired to connect, and since the pandemic, we’ve seen people return to a sense of local and community connection. We don’t need as many shops, but we do need opportunities to socialise and be together from doctors’ surgeries, to bakeries, exercise studios, repair shops and creches.”
The speakers discussed some of the most important aspects for those looking or in need of a new home which has changed following the repercussions of the pandemic. Such requirements included; feeling safe, connected, and having access to places where people can be social on the high street, as well as having open green spaces, nature and colourful surroundings on their doorstep.
Mark Perry, Chief Executive of VIVID, stated, “It’s all of our responsibility in the sector to reflect the changing needs of local communities to create a better society where people can come together. The need to shop and live local has been on the national agenda for some time, but this year has been accelerated following the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic has changed what people need in their homes and around them, and we need to adopt a local approach with our partners and stakeholders, to deliver what’s now most important to improve people’s everyday lives.
“The home is where we rest, but also increasingly where we work, and we need to create places that promote wellbeing and allow people to thrive. Re-purposing the high street and town centres will be challenging, but we’re in a strong position to influence, be nimble and adapt, and by working together, listening to our communities and utilising our strengths, I believe we can achieve great things.”