We’re sleepwalking towards an empty high street

See that headline? It’s true. We’re sleepwalking towards an empty high street.

Let’s face it, we’re shopping more online or in edge-of-town superstores and retail parks.

So why do we need a high street?

Most of the United Kingdom’s GDP comes from single person businesses. They are the lifeblood of our economy.

If GDP is high, firms can hire more people, afford higher wages and people have more money to spend. Life is good.

But we see the opposite when GDP is low: less hiring, lower wages, more unemployment, and less money to go round.

Times change

Our high streets have historically been full of major brands that attract people into an area to shop. This has had a positive effect on the smaller shops and services that are nearby. The high street was dependent on these big brands.

But like I said, our spending habits are changing. We constantly look for the best ‘deal’ even if it’s a short-term one: a discount, special offer or even over-purchasing goods with a three-for-the-price-of-two offers.

We want the high-quality branded item, but we want it for less.

This has had an impact on the big brands and people aren’t drawn to expensive high street department stores like they were. Why go to a department store when the shopping outlet a few miles out will give you a 70% discount?

That lack of spending on the high street is then felt by the little guy, you know the ones… the hairdressers, the artisan bakery, the shop that sells all manner of amazing meats or cheeses… the shops that suddenly aren’t there anymore.

Where did they go?

When the big stores go bust (Debenhams, BHS, etc…) they leave a gap and not just a physical one. There’s a reduction in business rates which means local councils need to recoup this from the businesses that are left – the little guys.

So businesses that earn a fraction of a department store’s revenue now have to stump up more cash. More and more of these smaller businesses are struggling due to increases in business rates that they simply can’t afford.

But the draw to the area isn’t there. The empty shops make the whole experience dismal. Why go into a town with limited parking and fewer shops, when we can get all we need with Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda?

It’s a question that local councils up and down the country need to ask themselves. Actually, the residents should be asking themselves exactly the same thing.

What would encourage me to go into town?

What do you think?




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