IT'S been a tough year for retail.

Changes in shopping habits have no doubt added to the woes of some familiar high street names. The closure of stores such as Toys R Us have been widely reported, and even some major department stores haven't been spared the struggles.

Online shopping has given customers the ease and convenience to purchase at the push of a button without having to step foot out of their front door.

However, the old adage 'if you don't use it you will lose it' often rings true and, at times like this, when even the big brand stores appear to be struggling we need to step up and support our high street.

Stepping into a shop is an experience in itself; you can see the full range in an instant without clicking away at images on a screen. There's the social aspect too: communicating during the transaction - talking to someone rather than tapping away in a virtual world.

Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, pin-points many reasons for the high street struggles, including dramatic changes in shopping behaviours. Shoppers feelmore comfortable about shopping online and can easily compare deals.

But what can be done to ensure the survival of our high street? Andrew believes flexibility with rents and leases from landlords would help.

While welcoming a 30 per cent reduction in business rates next year until 2021, Andrew says it will be too late for some independent retail businesses. "Moreover, the rating systems needs a complete overhaul," he adds.

He also believes internet only companies need to pay more tax. "I do not think an internet sales tax is the solution. I believe that they should pay more in corporation tax and some form of delivery tax given the impact on the road and environment with the millions of deliveries. The internet is very convenient, and there needs to be steps taken to level the playing field."

Local authorities have to be more high street/ town centre friendly offering easier and cheaper parking and a stronger mix of retail, leisure, residential and learning.

"We are seeing growth in ‘service retail’ (cafes, barbers, etc) and retailers will have to introduce elements of experience into the shop visit. Some already do this well. Retailers will thrive by engaging/ understanding customers, offering more unique products and changing the way they work and in many cases, smaller will be better," says Andrew.

"This year we have seen TV advertising for independents by VIAS. American Express had a Shop Small campaign. Small Business Saturday, etc. If we can obtain the support of large multi national companies to help promote the ethos of the high street, we still have a chance. The Kindle was meant to lead to the end of books and bookshops. That is one small part of retailing we can all learn from."

But it's not all doom and gloom on the high street. Refreshingly, business appears to be booming for Bradford's The Broadway shopping centre.

According to general manager, Ian Ward, footfall for November 2018 was up 4.6 per cent compared to last year. "We're outperforming the national average, which is currently 3.8% down," says Ian.

'Sparkling Bradford' - the city's festive calendar of events contributed to the centre's strong December performance.

"2018 has been a fantastic year for The Broadway. As a centre, we’re continuing to attract big name brands despite ongoing pressure on the high street. We’ve welcomed a number of major retailers over the past twelve months - Superdrug and Trespass to name but a few – and we’re expecting even more announcements to come in the new year."

But what about the competition from online spending?

"There’s no getting away from the fact that online retail is here to stay," says Ian.

"At The Broadway, we’re embracing it – we’ve installed Amazon lockers in the mall for shoppers who prefer to collect their parcels rather than have them delivered home, as this encourages them to visit other retailers in the centre at the same time.

It’s our job to react and adapt to changes in spending habits. We need to make sure we’re marketing effectively, as well as providing those little ‘extras’ that make shopping more of an all-round experience. For us this means putting on a stellar events programme throughout the year while growing a fantastic leisure portfolio so there’s always something for everyone. As we’re now working in partnership with other businesses across the city through the Bradford BID, locals can expect an even bigger year of events on the horizon."

Ian believes developing The Broadway as a 'real leisure destination' will help it remain relevant to consumers in the current market.

"This is a crucial time for us as retailers, and we need to focus on bringing shoppers through the doors and getting money in the till.

"My advice would be the same as many – shop local, support your high street. It really is as simple as that."