Is the high street really dying? Or merely changing? 50 years ago people wouldn’t believe what would be on offer today in towns and city’s across the country. The convenience of heading into your local town and having everything on offer for you. Food and drink from around the world, latest fashion trends, CDs, what’s a bloody CD, (I still remember cassettes and minidiscs). Things have obviously changed from that time but something really important went on in those days. We shopped locally. We shopped from people who owned business locally who live locally to us. We invested heavily in the local economy. The circular economy. Yes people traveled and went to new cities but the vast majority of money spent was within a very local distance of where you lived. Then, somewhere along the way these super cities really started to blow up. The major high street was born. Places like Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle etc started to grow and grow and the high street took off. Massive shops opening all over the place, 4/5 story's high selling thousands of items everyday. From this the specialist out of town shopping centre came. The Bull Ring, Meadowhall and Trafford Centre popped up offering free parking and the convenience of everything under one roof. At this point the city centre started to change. Big stores wanted to be in these locations. People wanted free parking, shop even when it’s raining and have everything in one place. Then what happened, the internet came. The internet is like the Top Trumps of shopping destinations. You don’t have to travel, pay for parking, doesn’t matter if it’s raining, it’s easy to do and there’s endless choice. The big stores started to struggle, but what’s more, the out of town centres started to take a hit. One by one the stores that haven’t adapted to the change in habits have closed and will continue to close.
So what does that all mean for the high street? The city centre, will they all become ghosts towns? Some will and that’s sad to say. Without big investment from government some cities will really struggle and become very sad places. But some have a real chance of surviving and what’s more they can support small businesses. Cities of the future will be multi use places, people will live, work and shop all in the same building. The 5 story empty shop you have now in your local town will become a multi use space. Ground floor will be a supermarket and gym, first and second floor will be offices and third, forth and fifth will be apartments. It will cut the need for so many cars as people’s lives will revolve around a small area. Living, working and shopping all under one roof. It’s as if we will go full circle, back to a time when we did everything within a close proximity of where we live.
So what does that mean for small businesses? Well like in lots of city’s there are many units that are just to small to facilitate this idea. So, with luck, these will be taken on by small independent businesses who will have a captured audience on their doorstep, quite literally. What’s more convenient then needing a new T-Shirt and popping out of your front door to an indie clothing shop and buying one?
This new model could be the first stage in fighting back against the ever growing power of online. It won’t happen over night but I do see a future for the smaller guy, if we get support from the people at the top.
So remember, shop local and support your local economy.
Owner of Winstons.