First high street 'digital hubs' piloted

The Great British High Street is launching its first ‘digital hubs’ as it looks to make UK high streets the most “digitally engaged” in the world, starting with pilots in Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Part of the ‘digital high street programme’ being led by Home Retail Group chief executive John Walden and supported by businesses including IBM, Boots UK, Google, Lloyds Banking Group and Facebook, as well as ministerial support from high streets minister Marcus Jones, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey and business minister Anna Soubry, and trade bodies including the British Retail Consortium, British Independent Retailers Association, shopping centre organisation BCSC and IMRG.

The ‘digital hubs’ will be piloted in Cheltenham and Gloucester until September and will feature a centralised hub of industry experts who will be providing strategic advice, measurement, digital toolkits and hands-on digital training to town centre, business improvement district managers and their thousands of small businesses, including retailers, leisure centres and libraries, pubs and clubs.

The initiative comes on the back of a new report by Innovate UK in conjunction with Town Centre Managers, which highlighted the urgent need for active intervention in providing the right tools and training to get the UK’s towns and businesses online to bridge the digital divide between them and their local community, visitors, tourists and other potential stakeholders.

The Great British High Street pilots ‘digital hubs’ in Cheltenham and Gloucester

It is hoped following these initial trials that The Great British Digital High Street Hub will launch nationally in spring 2017.

Walden said: “Due to the spread of online commerce and services, modern consumers are often more digitally capable than the places they visit. This has resulted in less consumer satisfaction with town centres, eroding both their economic and social viability.

“The potential for communities and local economies to reap the benefits of digital is not being realised. The high street ‘digital hub’ trials will help participating high street stakeholders take full advantage of the digital revolution to create a vibrant, attractive and engaging experience for all and validate the approaches that can effectively scale these advantages to other high streets throughout the UK.”

Minister for high streets, Marcus Jones, added: “The Great British High Street programme is revitalising our town centres and growing year on year. Digital technologies have transformed how people live, work and play. Digital is changing how consumers interact with businesses and services, and how high streets are used.

“We need to provide high-quality tools and training from reliable sources to help businesses in local communities to get online.”

Image: The Great British High Street/Innovate UK


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