Kate Hardcastle investigates state of the high street in documentary

Kate Hardcastle
Kate Hardcastle

Retail expert Kate Hardcastle has investigated what the future has in store for the high street in a documentary that will be screened tomorrow night (Thursday).

Kate, who was schooled at Brooksbank School in Elland, has made a Tonight programme about the state of the traditional high street, travelling around the country to find out the scale of the problem.

In the last 10 years, nearly 220,000 jobs have been lost across the retail sector as 85,000 stores have closed their doors.

Kate describes the figures as “frightening”.

She said: “I’ve been to hear about some real success stories and went to Burton-upon-Trent, which has been dubbed as Britain’s worst town for shop closures.

“That was a title held by Bradford a few years ago and I did a piece about that then, so I know the impact it can have.

“I went to Holywell in Wales which has been really successful in going contactless, working together and improving opening hours and free parking.

“I also spoke to the High Street Minister face-to-face, which was something I really wanted to do.

“He is the fifth minister in six years and he’s ordered a review, but the last review in 2011 wasn’t followed up with many recommendations being implemented, so I asked him why he felt it was the right course of action now.”

Kate says there are things that can be done to help improve the situation.

“If you ask anyone how could you improve town centres,” she said, “they would probably say free parking, so you’re not always looking around nervously for parking wardens, facilities and accessibility, especially for elderly people or parents with young children having to hike up a big hill, and basic things like toilets.”

Locally, Kate says the Piece Hall has helped rejuvenate Halifax town centre.

“I was schooled in Elland and Halifax was my town centre,” she said.

“It was brilliant when I shopped there as a kid, but five or six years ago it had got quite grey and tired.

“But I think the brilliant thing about Halifax is the Piece Hall. It’s got such great connectivity with Eureka, the train station and Square Chapel.

“It really is the jewel in the crown - how many towns can boast something as beautiful and iconic as the Piece Hall?”

Kate is convinced there is still a place for the high street in contemporary Britain, but says it is a “survival of the fittest”.

“There is a desire for it,” she added.

“I help retailers to solve these problems for my job.

“People still enjoy the idea of shopping, going out, meeting friends.

“It’s a social enterprise, a social experience.

“But as soon as you disappoint or frustrate people by putting barriers in their way, you will lose them.

“Hebden Bridge is an example of somewhere where shops and businesses have worked together rather than in competition to understand how they can get people into the town.”

Shopping: End of the High Street is on ITV on Thursday, August 23 at 7.30pm.