Emma McKinney meets a Solihull millionaire entrepreneur with a plan to turn around the region’s ailing high streets
New figures have revealed almost a fifth of Birmingham’s shops are empty as the economy battles to recover from the recession and consumer confidence remains in crisis.
Eighteen per cent of Birmingham’s shops are boarded up, according to a report by The Local Data Company, which has revealed that the city has the 13th highest rate of vacant stores in the country.
The news comes as the Government has tasked retail specialist and TV star Mary Portas with turning around Britain’s ailing high streets, carrying out an independent review looking at how to address the problems of empty shops and “clone towns” by finding new business models that fit with modern needs and increase the number of independent retailers.
But Solihull millionaire entrepreneur Nigel Botterill believes retailers should stop blaming the recession and take responsibilty for their own demise.
“I know Mary and I think she’s got a brilliant business mind but she’s taking on a massive challenge and she can’t do it on her own,” said the 44-year-old.
“The Government could do more to create an environment in which high street businesses can thrive. They can take simple steps such as cheaper and more abundant parking in town centres and greater incentives for landlords to fill shops, even if at a lower rates.
"People like convenience, and if it’s convenient to shop on the high street, they will.
“Everyone’s quick to blame the Government, but the reality is that retailers are 100 per cent responsible for their own success – or failure.
‘‘Yes there’s a recession, but many stores, be it big chains or little independents, are surviving and doing well, there’s no reason others can’t.”
Mr Botterill is talking from experience, having built up six successful businesses in the last 10 years – all turning over more than £1 million a year.
“Despite the economic climate we’ve had the best 12 months ever by some margin,” added Mr Botterill, who has clinched seven business awards and written a best-selling book called The Botty Rules, offering advice to small firms wanting to succeed.
“Consumers may have less to spend but they are still willing to spend what they have, as long as you sell them something they want.”