The 'death of the High Street'

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  • Mr Davies said: “I blame the closure of my shop a bit on society, everyone is busy with work

    Is this satire?

    I think it signifies the changing population demographic through the eyes of a long-time business owner.

    Bakers Arms was originally built for almshouses. The area is no longer affordable to pensioners and a lot of older working class families have left the area. So he probably saw his traditional customer base leave, replaced by young professionals who work long hours and couldn't get to a shop that was open 9-5, Mon-Sat.

  • Further reporting of further decline:­9/apr/10/more-than-2400-shops-lost-from-­top-500-uk-high-streets-in-2018-banks

    It's amazing how insulated we still are from this in London, well, Central and Inner London at least, but I expect it won't be long before the phenomenon is felt here, too. Not looking forward to that.

  • Feels like more time should be spent looking at what the high street could become rather than how we could preserve an out of date concept. I prefer shops to ordering online but haven't noticed any difference to my feelings towards London based on shops (shops not pubs...). Not always but in general there's just such a poor balance between price, quality and experience. Compare that with on here where in the classifieds the prices are largely appropriate, the product is good and the people you buy from almost always great.

    I agree a community needs a hub. I recall back in the riots there was a discussion about people trashing there own high street as they felt no relationship with them. I just don't see the retail of days gone by being the thing that brings us together.

  • Well, as I said above somewhere, whether you like a high street full of private shops or not, it, along with markets and other commercial places, is the continuation of a very old idea--the nexus of the public realm, most usually a central place relatively easy for people living nearby to get to, and private enterprise. Obviously, there's no impermeable gulf between the two, but historically it has been this combination that has worked best. The idea has, of course, been undermined in all sorts of ways before, e.g. by private shopping malls, in which there is no access to shops from the public realm, only from an environment that is, in turn, privately owned. The Internet is arguably even worse in that respect--a non-place that doesn't even require you to unpark your arse.

    I'm not particularly beholden to any nostalgic ideas--e.g., I always found the post-Thatcher high street full of chain shops a very unattractive proposition for shopping and fortunately have long lived in an area stuffed to the gunwales with good local shops--, but what I want to see is that combination of the public realm as a meeting-place and a place of interaction that facilitates access to businesses. I want people to want to get out of the house because there's an attractive place to get stuff from and not be so isolated as seems to be happening.

    I also want to see relatively small, independent businesses continue to thrive, because it's much better socially, employs more people, the profits stay in the local area more, etc. The Internet is the Largest Imaginable Marketplace and as such, it concentrates, and will concentrate further, commercial activity on a relatively small number of large businesses. (The larger the market, the greater the market share taken by the big players--see investors' hopes in Amazon for the most extreme example at the moment.)

    I think these are timeless considerations and the basic parameters of what a society ought to achieve in respect of commerce.

  • TLDR but my own personal anecdotal opinion is that chain shops are a lot to blame in making the high street less appealing to customers. I don't bother going to the high street because its guaranteed to just be a Boots, WH Smith, several betting shops, mcdonalds, sports direct etc.
    There is a place for these kind of stores but I'd rather go to oxford street or similar if I want all the major shops in one place. Otherwise I'd prefer it to be smaller, more interesting independent shops like Spitalfields for example. I'd visit that much more often

  • Shopped three DIY chains looking for dremel-type wire brush things. All told me ‘have you tried Amazon, etc?’ ‘Er, no, because I thought it’d be easy and better buying this in your shop...’
    By last chance, stopped at a tiny independent hardware shop (V&I in Emmer Green FYI) after a fruitless drive-about and they had them on the shelf.
    What you all said really.

  • The Drum has a lot of pensioners drinking in there!

    There's also a big old car park round the back of the fishmongers, not more than a two minute walk away. Admittedly you would have to pay to park there.

  • I also want to see relatively small, independent businesses continue to thrive, because it's much better socially, employs more people, the profits stay in the local area more, etc

    Me too but moving forward what are the businesses that will do this? Which of these won't be hit hard because of social/cultural change over the next few years?

    M.O.T/Tyre/exhaust centre
    Paper shop
    D.I.Y shop
    Pet shop
    Card/cheap present shop

  • The decline of the high street is an outcome of political choices. Business rates, rents, tax breaks for large businesses, tax evasion, lack of international legislation on what Internet giants can and can't do, etc. etc.

    Small businesses quite simply have many plus points that other forms of doing business can never replicate, e.g. social connections, and it requires political choices to make sure they can be actualised.

    Politics is beholden to rubbish statistics like 'productivity', to take a random example, which after a certain point really just shows how many people you can sack while still producing the same amount of goods. Obviously, at the other extreme you don't constantly want people to sit around doing nothing, but to push 'productivity' beyond all reasonable limits, thereby damaging people's experience of work (e.g., getting increasingly stressed and ill because they have to do a job that two people used to do, etc.), is nothing but the outcome of the aforementioned choices.

  • My dad used to restore classic cars and within a mile of where i grew up we had numerous machine shops, auto spare shops and independent garages. All of them are gone now and the repeat comment from the owners was that people had no interest in maintaining or restoring cars. From there perspective this came as a result of extended manufacturer warranties and trade in policies that made looking after your car a thing of the past. Compare what a 5 year old BMW would of cost you in the eighties and the same now and it's shocking how cheap and abused you can find a relatively new car.

    Please don't take this as an argument as i find what your saying very interesting but i don't understand how my example is a result of political choices and not cultural change? Are you saying the car manufacturers have been encouraged by governments to push through this culture? If butcher's start to struggle because less people are eating meat are we saying allowances should be made for them to survive or that they should be dynamic and move with the times?

  • One interesting one is betting shops.

    I can't remember the exact rules but they were only allowed a certain number of fixed odds betting terminals per shop so one solution was to open up more shops to get more machines. As a result they took over from other shops on the high street as they had pretty deep pockets so could afford the startup costs.

    Now the rules have changed though and the terminals aren't as profitable they're all starting to close down again. Will be interesting to see what, if anything, fills the gaps.

  • Ha, I wasn't trying to say anything about people working on cars. Over the years, I've become quite fond of those businesses; they're usually very small and low-key, and while I don't like driving, especially locally, too much, I like small business.

    I'm sure that there will be a need for small business regardless of the way in which the culture changes.

  • Yes, in Hackney betting shops are a huge problem and the Council have been trying to do something about them for a long time. There are far too many.

  • Not directly related to high streets, although in many areas of London railway arches are a vital part of the local economy. The latest evil sell-off threatens the survival of many small businesses.­9/jun/01/railway-arch-shops-uk-face-evic­tion-rent-increases-network-rail

  • Yes I would be worried if I was an arch tenant, in this situation the Landlord will always win. Small businesses like this often cannot afford proper legal or professional advice, therefore will be very vulnerable, which will be easy to exploit.

  • Further to my comment above, William Hill have announced they're closing 700 shops.

  • Can't help but feel that betting shops closing is a good thing, however it seems likely that many will remain empty. So another problem is created.

    However, that problem may in itself be the start of a solution as rents fall and new businesses are able to utilise the empty spaces.

  • The start of the transformation of the High Street would need local authorities to end the subsidy of vacant properties. Currently Business rates are reduced on vacant properties. Amass enough commercial properties and you still generate sufficient income even when 'some' of your properties are empty.
    I'm estimating that it would take, say 6 weeks, between tenants to allow for a (simple) refit.
    If a commercial property becomes vacant, the Business Rates, could potentially be reduced for these 6 weeks, by means of a rebate to the incoming tenant, off their next full years charge.
    If premises remain vacant after 6 weeks the Business Rates should increase, month by month, until the landlord finds a suitable tenant, (probably by reducing the rent).

  • That would be a good strategy but you can imagine the lobbying done by professional landlords to stop it.

  • Business rates are a charge for a service, not a tax. If the property is empty, fewer services are being used, so the rates are lower.

    I'm not disputing that owners of vacant properties should be taxed - but it would be better implemented as a land value tax, because it's less regressive.

  • land value tax, because it's less regressive

    Tell me more.

  • Yes,
    I'm certain there are hundreds of reasons why it could not be implemented,
    but, most would boil down to 'don't take away my subsidy'.

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The 'death of the High Street'

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick