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High streets must adapt to changing shopping or die: IMRG

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High street landlords and councils risk killing many of the UK’s high streets by failing to adapt to the “fundamental transformation” in the way we shop, the IMRG’s chairman has warned.

James Roper, who founded the etail trade association, says tens of thousands of retail outlets could close if changes to rents and business rates are not introduced to reflect the way sales are moving online.

“Retailers who are already taking more than a quarter of their sales from outside of their physical stores can no longer bear the same costs and lengths of commitment to rents and business rates negotiated when all of their sales were store-based,” he said.

“Ten thousand retail outlets have been empty for over three years and tens of thousands more are at risk as their costs rise and productivity falls.”

Roper cited the IMRG e-Retail Survey, which questioned more than 50 senior ecommerce professionals, including chief executives, marketing directors and heads of ecommerce, about their expectations for the fourth quarter of 2014. The survey, carried out in October 2014, found that multichannel retailers expected to make 27% of their sales online in the fourth quarter, representing a 5% shift from stores to online.

Some 85% of all retailers said ecommerce would grow by more than 10% - up from the 80% who made the same prediction last year. But while 92% of online and/or catalogue retailers were confident in this expectation, while a lower proportion (77%) of multichannel retailers agreed.

The IMRG , which has a seat on the Government’s Digital High Street Advisory Board, is proposing new ways of measuring high street performance, with the introduction of a new multichannel value model.

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