House of Commons
Budget – Rishi Sunak
Higher purpose for the high street?
Written by Ralitsa Bobcheva, associate
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
3 March 2021
I’ve always felt that a main high street embodies the spirit of a town or city itself. In normal times, I would spend my spare time strolling down London’s Oxford Street, soaking in the hubbub of foreign languages, the movement of the crowd, and the visual spectacle delivered by rows of shiny shop windows.
The past year of induced lockdowns has dealt a serious blow to the high street. As footfall dropped by 43% across the retail sector, once popular clothing chains announced mass closures, triggering fears for the future of high streets everywhere.
There is yet a glimmer of promise. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil his 2021 budget later today, including a £5bn support package for high street businesses. This has raised hopes that the high street will survive in something like the form we recognise, but has also prompted the question: what will the high streets of the future look like?
Once the heart of communities and central hubs for retail activity, malls and shopping centres faced a similar fate in the past. In 2014, some critics proclaimed the “death of the mall” while others said that to survive in the digital age, malls will need to evolve and reinvent themselves.
In response, a growing number globally embraced eco-friendly initiatives, restoring green spaces and integrating sustainable solutions for customers, with the new St James Centre in Edinburgh promoting itself as a sustainable European destination in its own right, rather than simply a convenient collection of stores.
Could the same formula be applied to reinvent the high street? As we return to city centres carrying the burden of a looming climate change emergency on our backs, the high street might also do its part to inspire and generate sustainable economic growth.
While there is no silver bullet, there is an opportunity to re-think how we view the high street and its role in the transition to a greener economy. Perhaps the ‘death of the high street’ is actually the birth of a higher purpose for town centres.
Nicola Sturgeon has been called upon to resign after new documents raised further questions about her involvement in the Alex Salmond crisis. On Tuesday evening, the government published emails showing its lawyers had warned the first minister and her most senior officials that evidence of a potentially unlawful conflict of interest inside the government was “extremely concerning”.
The US has announced sanctions on senior Russian government officials over the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The officials said that the measures are being coordinated with similar moves by the European Union and that more measures would be issued in due course in response to last year’s ‘Solar Winds’ cyber-attack.
President Joe Biden has said that the United States will have enough coronavirus vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May, but warned that the country must still be vigilant against the virus. He also announced that teachers will be prioritised in the vaccination plan, reemphasizing a commitment to return students to classrooms.
Business and economy
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to use the 2021 budget to extend the furlough scheme until the end of September, with employers gradually asked to pay a bigger share of the wages paid out through the scheme. The budget, which is due to be announced later today, is also expected to include a £20-a-week uplift to the universal credit support. (£)
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, has called for a cancellation of all planned coal projects globallyto put an end the “deadly addiction” to the most polluting fossil fuel. Speaking at the opening of a summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, Guterres said that phasing out coal is the most important step in tackling the climate emergency.
UK ministers have been advised to consider tariffs on imports of lower-standard food and farm produce from overseas to protect the UK’s food safety and animal welfare standards. The recommendation by an independent commission advising the government caused dismay among some farmers and food campaigners, who called for an outright ban and regulations.
Columns of note
In The Guardian, Kanishk Tharoor sheds light on a newly emerging disparity between wealthy countries and developing ones. While some wealthier countries cheered at the success of Covid-19 vaccines, partly attributing it to globalisation and immigrant heroes, the contours of the global vaccine rollout paint a gloomy picture of growing inequality, Tharoor argues.
In the FT, the newly appointed leader of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, explores both the challenges and the opportunities facing the organisation. She argues that it is the WTO’s responsibility to rise to the challenge of vaccine nationalism and protectionism through enhanced cooperation among its members. (£)
What happened yesterday?
London stocks finished in a mixed state yesterday, with the FTSE 100 ending the session up 0.38% at 6,613.75, while the FTSE 250 went down 0.21% at 21,177.91 Sterling was in a mixed state as well, last gaining 0.17% on the dollar to trade at $1.3949 but slipping 0.03% against the euro to €1.1552.
Across the Atlantic, Wall Street stocks ended lower as Apple and Tesla shares dippedby two and four per cent respectively. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.46% to end at 31,391.52 points, while the S&P 500 lost 0.81% to 3,870.29.
In company news:
Accountancy firm KPMG is reportedly set to announce the sale of its UK restructuring arm in a deal worth £400m, as the sector braces itself for sweeping audit reforms.
The Cambridgeshire-based company Hotel Chocolat has seen growth in profits as online sales more than tripled despite the high street lockdowns.
What’s happening today?
UK economic announcements
(00:01) BRC Shop Price Index
(09:30) PMI Services
Int. economic announcements
(08:55) PMI Services (GER)
(08:55) PMI Composite (GER)
(09:00) PMI Services (EU)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)
(10:00) Producer Price Index (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(14:45) PMI Services (US)
(14:45) PMI Composite (US)
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)
(15:00) ISM Services (US)
Oxford Street was once the road that connected Newgate Prison with the hallows at Tyburn. Condemned prisoners were driven down the street from the prison and hung from the Tyburn tree at Marble Arch. Today, a stone marks the site where the tree stood.
House of Commons
Budget – Rishi Sunak
House of Lords
Report by KPMG ‘Northampton Borough Council: Report in the public interest regarding the Council’s loans to Northampton Town Football Club’ – Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Programme and timetable for refugee resettlements under the UK Resettlement Scheme – Baroness Ludford
Health and Sport Committee Debate: What Should Primary Care Look Like for the Next Generation?
Opposition Debate: Scottish Labour Party Business
Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee Debate: Standing Order Rule Changes – Inquiry into the Resilience of the Scottish Parliament’s Practices and Procedures in Relation to its Business
Members Business: Further Support for Autism and Learning Disabilities
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