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The Observer: "Can anyone save our high streets?"

Link to The Observer

"... Across Britain, one in seven shops is now boarded up, as consumers drive to out-of-town malls, or wait out the recession with their hands in their pockets. Then there is the one-click efficiency of online shopping. That is why high street chains such as Woolworths, Zavvi and Habitat have made way for an endless parade of mobile-phone stores and charity shops.

" 'What will be the future?' asks Mary Portas. 'It's not just, "Here's a report", but what can we do about it, and what will be the new business model for high streets? For me, as a retailer, this is where the sexiness lies'."

 The artist: Martin Boyce
 The idea: turn high streets into urban playgrounds
"The high street needs to embrace everyone. I would like to see older people moving back into the centre. You could pop out and meet your friend, sit on a bench and watch skateboarders. We would be surprised by the sense of community that would develop between the different age groups: you saw it in the riots around London, when people were out cleaning up and putting things right."
 The retailer: Jane Shepherdson
 The idea: offer lower rents to attract new British talent
"We certainly have the talent in Britain. Just look at the fashion industry: in the last few years we've home-grown global stars like Christopher Kane, Erdem, Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, Jonathan Saunders. What's happening now is that they are all going online, because there's almost zero expense and no risk. But if there were more opportunities for them to showcase their skills, it would make the high street more exciting for all of us."
 The architect: David Adjaye
 The idea: bring public buildings on to the high street
"I'd like to see more public buildings on the high street. Council activity should not be in rarefied big blocks like the town hall. People should be able to engage with it very directly and we don't need big buildings to do that anymore."
 The fashion magazine editor: Lorraine Candy
 The idea: create a lust for bespoke shopping
"Shopping online is always going to be huge, but the great hope for the high street is that nobody wants to stay indoors the whole time. For young women, a lot of their social life is based on being outside with their friends – shopping is always going to part of it. You have to view it in a positive way: online can drive people into shops; you've got this whole audience via social media and you can reach them at any given point in their day."
 The philosopher: Alain de Botton
 The idea: make psychotherapy like visit to hairdresser
"To survive, the high street will need to focus on all the things that cannot be done online – which chiefly means, things that involve the body or the social self. So restaurants will survive, as will anything that involves community. Moving psychotherapy onto the high street seems a natural progression. It means recognising that the high street is a natural place to take care of psychological needs, that were previously attended to out of sight. Consulting a therapist should be seen as no less normal than going to a nail bar, and a lot more useful."

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