Towns centres could be 'like Disneyland in their own right'

A retail expert believes towns can be “like Disneyland in their own right” as he encouraged turning a town centre into more of a social destination.

An artist’s impression of a pedestrianised Shrewsbury High Street
An artist’s impression of a pedestrianised Shrewsbury High Street

In a Shrewsbury Big Town Festival presentation about the new masterplan vision for the future, Bill Grimsey – a former boss of a number of retail heavyweights who now writes books and consults on the future of high streets, said the town needs to move away from being shopping-focused and offer better experiences.

He has been advising Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury Bid, and shared his thoughts on how best the town can “future proof” itself.

Speaking at the Introducing the Masterplan presentation, he said: “Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen changes we expected to happen over 10 years happen in six months.

“We’ve seen many businesses fail. The likes of Arcadia didn’t invest enough in online. I don’t think there will be many banks in the town centres in the future.

"We are social animals. We want to have shared experiences.”

He believes that Shrewsbury is “miles ahead of many towns” in terms of planning for the future, and that if some of the suggestions on the masterplan come to pass, future generations would ‘look back kindly on us.’

He said he believes lots of British towns will seek to become more like tourist destinations in years to come.

“We could have 1,500 towns up and down the country that are like Disneyland in their own right,” he said.

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