Guildford Vulnerable?

14 January 2021

KPMG view on Retail Health across 109 towns

The national newspapers 14-1-2021 are reporting on a study conducted by the accountancy firm KPMG on the vulnerability of the England’s high streets.  KPMG suggest up to 400,000 retail jobs could be lost as a result of more people working from home and shopping online after the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report, with affluent towns in the south among the most vulnerable.

Out of the 109 towns and cities studied by the accountancy firm KPMG,the top five judged to be most at risk of having the greatest declines in retail employment as a share of local economic activity were Bracknell, Basingstoke, Hemel Hempstead, Warrington and Guildford.

KPMG said the shifting trends caused by the pandemic would have far-reaching consequences for the levelling-up agenda, which has so far focused on historically weaker local economies in the Midlands and northern England.

Finding that some of the most vulnerable places in the Covid recession were in the traditionally affluent south-east, the company said the balance was shifting so that these areas would need to do more to refocus their local economies in future.

Yael Selfin, the chief economist at KPMG in the UK, said: “As people travel less for work or to shop, town and city centres will need alternative offerings to fill vacant space and to attract people to the area as we hopefully leave the pandemic behind sometime this year.

“High streets will need to be reimagined as cultural and recreational hubs that will act as magnets for businesses and jobs able to transform less prosperous areas.”

The Guardian has a full report on the KPMG findings

Some commentators have also suggested that the rise of home working could help smaller towns and cities to emerge stronger from the pandemic, as fewer people may need to travel to big cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester.  It should be noted that in many cases home working, may be working in higher-paying sectors of the economy in which remote work is easier, such as in IT and finance.

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