By Martin Blackwell

Small shopkeepers aren't the only ones concerned about Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King's contention that high streets are a "poor second" to out of town shopping centres.

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, noted that Mr King has claimed "many shoppers do not have the time to potter between the butcher, the baker and grocer" and that blame for the demise of the high street cannot be laid at the door of the supermarkets.

"In fact," said Blackwell, "it's somewhat disingenuous to simply focus on food. Sainsbury's is now the seventh largest clothing retailer by volume in the UK.

"But unlike some supermarkets, Sainbury's is also a strong supporter of town centre management, and helps drive up standards of partnership, as well as providing funding to local partnerships based on their own rigid assessment process. That is a very positive position to take and reflects their on-going investment in town centres."

The impact of their support and that of other contributors to town centre schemes can be seen by looking at the accomplishments of partnerships throughout the country.

"We have worked for over 20 years to improve the UK's town centres and high streets, and have helped score some significant victories, including the town centre first planning guidelines and the creation of Business Improvement Districts," he added.

"We have also worked with Mary Portas on her review of the high street and are now working to ensure that those who apply for part of the £1 million being made available for "Portas Pilots" really get the most out of the opportunity."

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