According to Dickinson, new measures for digital trading include ramping up broadband speeds for the high street, better public free Wi-Fi provision and the development of basic digital skills programmes by 2020.
There will also be a new Digital High Street Health Index enabling towns and local authorities to assess high street competitiveness and better understand the economic value of digital technologies.
Dickinson said: “While what makes a successful high street has not fundamentally changed, the ability to achieve wider future success is now absolutely dependent on embracing the impact of digital.”
Dickinson believes properly harnessing the power of digital technologies can also help British firms expand abroad. “Look at clothing firm ASOS. It has developed a huge international presence and sales growth without having a physical presence in terms of stores,” she said. “There is a huge opportunity for UK brands to export overseas through investing in their digital technology. Parts of the world, particularly Asia want British brands and to buy into British heritage. We will see more UK firms exporting through online sites and taking to the international stage.”
Dickinson said the UK was leading the way in digital trading second only to the US.
“The expertise is sitting here, we just have to leverage that while we are ahead and export,” she added.
The development of that “expertise” is being tackled by the new Digital High Street Strategy but intriguingly Dickinson stresses that larger, multi-national firms are also struggling to find the skills they need particularly from digital graduates.
“Retail is not necessarily top of the sexy list for digital graduates when you have alternatives such as Google and Apple,” Dickinson said. “There is a digital skills gap in our industry and we are talking to Government about it. We have a job to do to make graduates better understand what this industry does.”
In the next instalment of the digital empire series we learn about the road to recovery…