Ms Coffey, who is the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Retail Group, said shops, businesses and the local council should join forces to harness revolutionary new technology and turn it to the town’s advantage.
Ms Coffey told the Commons today, during a debate she led on the future of Retail and the High Street, that the biggest challenge to the high street was the impact of online shopping and developing mobile technology.
She said that there had been a 300 per cent increase in people shopping on mobile phones and tablets in the last year and that by 2020 a quarter of all sales will be online.
But she said this provided an opportunity for the public and private sector to harness these revolutionary changes and bring together physical shops and online services.
In her speech she talked about shops providing free wi fi, click and collect services and independent shops joining forces to start up umbrella online websites.
She said the many empty shops up and down the country cannot all go back to being traditional shops. Because of the impact of mobile technology, future town centres can no longer be just about physical shopping but will be about socialising, entertainment services and culture.
More stores are responding to new technology by bringing together online services with physical shops. Many businesses are equipping their stores or staff with ipads or installing “kiosks” to allow for easy in-store customer ordering.
Ms Coffey said: “In Stockport we have many new independent shops and it is good to see them exploring ways of working together and of using the internet and social media such as “facebook” and “twitter” to support their bricks and mortar shops.
“I was talking to one Stockport business who already operates an online store through ASOS Market place, which is a part of the ASOS fashion retail site.
“But across the country, independent retailers report that they are struggling to compete with major internet retailers as, on their own they lack the funds for large scale online marketing and websites to compete with Amazon and Ebay.”
She said an interesting response to this is new websites such Myhigh.St for independent retailers. Called Target 200 it is an innovative ecommerce network that gives independent shop keepers the chance to join together to sell their products on line and also gives towns a platform to showcase what is happening in their high street. Coupled with “click and collect” and an independent shops loyalty programme it enables shoppers to buy online whilst encouraging visits in person.
Ms Coffey added: “This type of innovation may be the way forward for Stockport in bringing together an online presence with its physical shops which will give additional income to independent retailers through on line sales and at the same time showcase its bigger retail shops, its markets, including specialist markets, together with its cultural and heritage attractions.
“I believe that my town has a lot to offer and I also very strongly believe that the digital age and the new technology available offers Stockport and towns like it an opportunity to transform themselves into the exciting community spaces of the future.
“I am really concerned that with all this discussion about the demise of the high street that the opportunities are being missed.
“It is important that councils and businesses in Stockport and elsewhere join together to enter the digital age and use the exciting opportunities offered by mobile technology to transform our high streets both in the delivery of private goods and public services.”
NB. The backbench debate on Retail and the High Street will take place at 3.00pm on Thursday November 28 in Westminster Hall. Speech attached.