There must be another way?

With challenging times for bricks and mortar retail and the ongoing dilemma for local and city authorities, landlords and developers on how to fill the growing number of empty spaces, there has to be a fresh approach to reinvent our shopping and leisure destinations.

I have read countless articles about the demise of retail. The most alarming was in a recent edition of The Times, where it was suggested the market will resolve the standoff between physical and digital without intervention - with the demise of our high streets and shopping centres regarded as acceptable collateral damage.

But Planet Amazon will be a very lonely place. We need to intervene now and support actual places that enable communities, customers and visitors to come together socialize and fulfil their needs and wants.

In the first instance, places require character to become distinct destinations. Character is, however, not necessarily an aesthetic quality, but rather a deeper proposition reliant on a broad matrix from physical and financial support to customer and community service and engagement. Places will only be successful if the stakeholder community is loyal, supporting and willing to invest their time and funds.

Places must therefore clearly define their proposition - in line with local demographics - and then set about delivering on this promise to secure buy-in from communities. This can only be achieved through a deep understanding of the social fabric of communities and requires a more joined up approach, between those with a vested interest in a place and a collaborative response by those that support and work in our industry.

We are increasingly seeing more openness towards shared endeavours from data collection to leasing activity. There now seems to be a willingness to offer joined up solutions. This should be encouraged by those commissioning services.

There is therefore another way and it involves effective collaboration of diverse skills, supported by good quality data, which gets to the heart of our challenged retail and leisure economy. We all know that the one size fits all strategies of the past are not relevant and that an inherently local response will be required moving forward. This is where blending creative thought with targeted analytics will add value, challenging the left side of the brain to work in unison with the right.