EASY and cheap parking is the key to the future of high streets, one of the country’s most successful retailers has said.
Leo McKee visited Bognor Regis to mark the opening of the latest BrightHouse store and said areas like it could survive well into this century if the conditions were right.
“I think the obituary of the high street has been written far too quickly. I compare the high street to the medieval village square.
“It’s not a place for shopping. It’s a place for social engagement and it’s a place for leisure.
“Our society can’t function without a high street. That’s the thing to realise and we need a more proactive partnership between business and the town halls.
“The number one issue for customers is parking and the ease and price of it. I’ve been charged anywhere from £8 for 90 minutes to 50p. That’s a huge variation.
“People also want clean and accessible public toilets and good public transport.
“Councils and businesses have to think about high streets in that context.
“High streets also have to be enjoyable and safe places. It’s not necessarily about more CCTV. It’s more about having accesses which are open.”
The recent official opening of the London Road store with its rent-to-own products saw it become the 300th BrightHouse outlet.
Mr McKee mingled with staff, customers, the BrightHouse mascots Billy and Lilly, a balloon modeller and an in-store DJ in the 2,000sq ft store.
He spent some of the next day there as well.
The occasion was a return to the town for Mr McKee. He spent 12 weeks as a cook at Butlin’s in a summer in the late 1960s.
“I know the town and I like it,” he said.
“When we’re looking for a site for a new store, we look to see if there’s a food store nearby and then clothing stores and then shops like WH Smith and Boots.
“A post office is important as well. We also want bus stops in the area.”
He joined BrightHouse, which is owned by private company Vision Capital, in September 2005. He has transformed it into a £300m annual turnover business with 3,000 employees.
The company was listed 73rd by The Sunday Times in its Top Track list of 250 businesses last year as its growth continues.