LOCAL quality independent businesses will be the key to the recovery and future stability of city centres and high streets.

So says the chairman of GO! Southampton, the city’s Business Improvement District, a Daily Echo Love Local partner.

Tim Keeping, general manager of the Marlands Shopping Centre, said Southampton has the ‘grass roots’ to make it happen.

He said: “The move to online shopping has been with us for a long time and Covid has accelerated that. But I really feel optimistic about how we can build on brilliant independent retail and hospitality businesses we have.

"If you look at mainland Europe they have never been predominantly about national brands on the high street as we have in this country. Independent names have been alive and well for a long time, to an extent that is not the case here.”

He said collaboration was another key, with businesses and business organisations working hand in glove with landlords, councils and other stakeholders. Another vital part of the equation was the environment.

“Our city centres and high streets have to be attractive places where people want to spend time. Cleaner, greener, safe and secure. That is why shopping centres have been so successful, because they are a managed environment. We need to replicate that.”

He added: “If we want pleasant, sustainable places to go we will need good quality independents businesses which offer an experience that is more than just a transactional one.”