The high streets of Great Britain have been in decline for the best part of a decade. Stores such as Woolworth’s, Comet, JJB, Zavvi, MFI, Habitat, Focus DIY and Borders all went a while ago, while this month HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster have all announced that they’re entering administration.
Internet shopping and the global recession have been cited as the main causes of the retailing downturn, and there are now over 30 stores closing every day in the UK. When you add the number of pubs joining them, our high streets are rapidly morphing into urban wastelands with boarded-up units everywhere you look. On the plus side, if you’re in the chipboard business things have never been better …
Nostalgia means we’ll mourn the loss of our favourite record shops for a while and buying sportswear isn’t so easy when you’re browsing an online catalogue, but if truth be told as a nation we’ve been using actual shops to try out and try on before buying online for years. When your town resembles every other town – if it doesn’t already – and we buy everything from Tesco a la the mighty Walmart in the US, there’s no point crying about it because we will have voted with our feet.
But what of the future ?
What will happen to the inner city when the pubs and shops have gone ? There’s got to be a finite demand for charity shops and bookmakers, surely ? If we haven’t quite reached saturation point yet, it can’t be too far in the distance, can it ?
I love charity shops and enjoy rummaging through them and I do like the odd flutter, but there’s got to be more we can do with that prime real estate, hasn’t there ?
Well … actually, no. For one thing, it won’t be prime anymore. The malls will have taken care of that. At best the high street will be a secondary location in terms of rental space, if not tertiary. The upside is that smaller firms and independent traders will be able to afford space in the future, so it may be that more areas like The Lanes in Brighton begin to emerge, with unique boutiques round every corner.
But let’s not forget the incessant rise of the coffee shop, while we’re looking into our retail crystal ball (I got mine from Sports Direct in the sale – £2.99 and it’s FIFA approved).
Hopefully, the backlash against Starbucks will continue and more and more artisan cafes will spring up in a twisted parody of the tea shop revolution of yesteryear. Wow, aren’t we continental, sitting outside freezing our bollocks off while burning the inside of our mouths with skinny mochaccinos ? Actually, no … I am ‘avin’ a fag. But that’ll be outlawed on the streets soon, too.
I would imagine Amazon themselves would take to the streets eventually, though they may delay for a year or three following the tidal wave of ill-will currently engulfing Starbucks after their own tax-evasion bubble burst.
Aside from them, the other internet behemoth, eBay, have been toying with the idea of opening physical shops for a while now, as well … though, personally, I’m amazed there aren’t more businesses offering to sell your stuff on there for you. I mean, who’s got the time to take nice photos and write fluffy descriptions of their unwanted items these days ? Frankly, I’ve got a whole cupboard full of stuff I want to sell, but I need to do it properly: multiple angle shots, well-researched copy, correct measurements, etc .. but I just don’t have the hours in the day to do it. That’s not even considering the hassle it is to go to the post office and wait in line for half an hour before finally getting to the window to discover that you’ve charged way too much or far too little to send your parcels to wherever they’re going … all provided you’ve still got a post office near you, that is.
Actually, my local one is on the high street, inside WHSmith.
Now there’s an idea … why didn’t someone else think of that before ? I hear the rents are really low at the moment …