The rise in online shopping means that high streets must change if they are to compete. The Government are actively helping high streets to adapt, but we need councils, landlords and businesses to play their part. That is why we have established the joint future high streets forum so that, together, we can better understand this complex challenge and so reinvigorate our town centres.
Chester is bidding to be the city of culture 2017, and we are using our bid to encourage people to use our culture, heritage and festivals, and thus breathe life back into the high street. Does my hon. Friend agree that making shopping an enjoyable experience that is also informative and entertaining is one way of encouraging shoppers back to the high street?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who points out that town centres have to adapt so that they are about not just shopping, but hospitality and culture. It is terribly important to get that balance right. I wish to put on the record my encouragement for Chester’s bid to be city of culture, for I know the support he is giving to it.
Amid the adverse effects of e-commerce, one positive recent trend has been the growth of click and collect, with Royal Mail now having announced its own version. What can be done to encourage such schemes and bring a bit of footfall back to the high street?
Again, my hon. Friend is right in what he says. We must be careful about assuming that online retailing is wholly negative for town centres, as it can be a great opportunity. That is why we have asked the Post Office to be part of the future high streets forum; it has a tremendous retailing network and we want to tap into that expertise.