Steven Broomhead is chief executive of Warrington Borough Council and writes a regular column for the Warrington Guardian

Covid has provided many unintended consequences.

One of which is its impact on the retailing sector and how, where and when we go shopping. Thanks to the power of the internet and the ubiquity of smart devices, consumers have never had more places to go shopping without leaving their homes. We are seeing digitalisation of the shopping experience and there is evidence that brand and customer loyalty has weakened. Online retailers have significant tax advantages and I hope the agreement to implement a global minimum corporation tax is actually implemented and enforced – but it will take time.

Owners and developers are having to redefine the bricks and mortar retail experience.

Our new Market is a good example of where a “traditional market” has been transformed into a “go to” leisure experience with the advent of the “Cookhouse”. It would have been considered daft in the past to book your birthday/wedding celebrations at our old Market – now this is happening regularly. There is also a great revival going on with traditional street markets although perhaps they need to be based on inclusivity serving all – not just the swanky artisan versions?

There are discussions taking place to consider the future of our key local shopping centres to transform the shoppers’ experience. Physical retailing now also has to be entertaining, fun, different and become a leisure activity. All of these considerations have to be commercially viable. For instance, the future of the empty Debenhams store has to be sustainable from a commercial perspective.

Our Town Centre is actually doing well compared to others and the Business Improvement District team is doing a great job to consider the options for the future. There was an estimated 25% over supply of retail space before Covid commenced.

Another interesting shift is the growth of shopping locally. Although the return of the corner shop is a long way off, there is a revival of local shopping based more on community needs. Stockton Heath, Lymm and Culcheth are leading the way but other areas such as Penketh, Westbrook, Woolston and Orford Lane need a fresh vision reinvention and a significant commercial investment.

As our Town continues to perform very well economically and features very strongly on investors and developers radars. We should turn these opportunities into reality.

Whilst 53% of internet shoppers do so because of free delivery, many of us still desire an interesting and entertaining “bricks and mortar” shopping experience. Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to go shopping. The retail revolution, how and when it will happen in our Town will be another interesting phenomenon to watch.