The High Street is doomed

High streets are doomed

You may have seen the headline the high street is doomed, according to Mary Portas

High Street Doom and Gloom

I am going to ignore the angle that Mary’s company YellowDoor promotes Westfield as I don’t see the relevance of this.

The report shows that the number of vacant shops on the high street has trebled from 2007, now standing at nearly 29,000.   And there are 25 places where one if four shops is empty.

Why is the high street doomed?

Well, personally I think there are three reasons for this.   Firstly, the cost of parking locally.

I live in Fleet, a market town in Hampshire that has a market and a High Street.  We, too, have our fair share of empty shops on the High Street. What have the local council done about this recently?   As far as I can tell, nothing.   The only thing we can see has happened is that free parking on Sunday has been scrapped and we now have to pay for parking.   In addition charges during the week have increased too.

Does this encourage us to shop in Fleet?  No.

Secondly, I blame Tesco.   Tesco is killing the High Street.  You can buy everything in Tesco these days and there is little reason, therefore, to shop on the High Street.   Parking is free at our nearest in Camberley and therefore if I have a list of things to get  as well as food I know I can go there.

Planners are happy to approve applications for Tesco superstores and, quite rightly, people are now campaigning against them.   Exactly for that reason, they are contributing to the death of the High Street.

Thirdly, and I feel, most importantly, it is so much easier on the internet.

Customer Service on the High Street is nil.   Stores are badly laid out, staff generally are surly and I leave shops feeling disappointed and frustrated.  There are of course exceptions <waves to More than Coffee in Fleet, a fabulous coffee shop with home made cakes and the Walnut Tree gift shop> but generally going into the High Street fills me with dread.

So I don’t bother.  I sit at home, pour a glass of wine, Google the item, find the cheapest, drink some more wine, order the item, pay online, drink some more wine, consider it done.

I haven’t had to deal with grumpy retailers and I haven’t had to pay for parking.

It would be a shame if some High Streets or town centres are bull dozed as Mary suggests might need to happen but then maybe that is the answer.   The world has changed since they were built and we do shop differently now.   No longer is the town centre the heart of our community.

Sadly until we address the issues of customer service and the continuing take over of Tesco in this country I think town centres will continue to decline.   Which is a real shame.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to start my Christmas shopping.  Anybody seen my corkscrew?


photo of a high street courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • I agree with you! I boycott Tesco for that reason. But I think people are going to have to support the town centre if they want customer service to improve because shop owners aren’t going to invest in staff for a shop that’s on the road to closure.

  • Very interesting T, In my former life in Design, I used to work for some fantastic international shopping centre developers. However, while the centres they built were really creative, extremely mindful of their surroundings (ecologically), and were superbly thought out and executed, it crossed my mind that there was nowhere left that was individual, independent and different.

    All the shops across their portfolio of centres within a country had pretty much all the same tenants.

    You can only tell Basingtoke and Reading apart by the EXORBITANT parking charges levied in Reading, all the shops, restaurants, cafes etc are pretty much the same.

    While it’s sad that two very different towns are only able to offer almost identical visiting experiences, they are hardly Destination Towns in themselves. When this globalisation of the High Street happens to more historical and cultural locations, the loss of the quaint, individual and locally owned stores is traumatic.

    It takes a strong Retail/Centre Development Manager to eschew a huge household name, or the premium rents they are able to pay to secure a high traffic location.

    There have been clients I have had the pleasure of working with, that DO take the bigger view, and consider what the end result would be. They carefully think how their selection of tenants affects the area as a whole,l and the experience they create is vastly improved as a result of this. These clients are very few and far between, sadly, and of an entirely different class to the more shiny-sharp-suited norm.

  • I have to agree with you on all the above. I live in St Albans which has a High Street and a twice weekly market, and a Tescos Express. We have many empty shops, but I do know that rental prices are very high for retailers here, hence the big boys taking over and the loss of the much adored independents, though of course I use the internet a lot – particularly a lot easier when you have young children.
    We recently had the addition of a Poundworld with a 99p shop next door! Slippery slope I say, but at least the markets thrive and good on them!

  • I live in Exeter and our HIgh Street seems to be thriving. Urban Outfitters are just about to open and, of course, we have the Holy Grail of high streets now opening here next year – John Lewis (upgraded to the full store from the original plans for a JL at Home). Parking charges are not too high, although I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of the centre. We could do with the farmers’ market being given a more prominent position than it is, but with lots of stuff going on in our main – pedestrianised – square and also on the green outside the cathedral, I don’t think ours is doomed at all.
    Yes, we have Tesco and Sainsburys and, next month, Waitrose on the periphery of town, but our nearest out of town “mall” is 80 miles away up the M5 in Bristol.
    Sorry this seems so smug, but having moved here three years ago after 20-odd years of living in London, I so appreciate living somewhere with a heart and a centre.

  • While you are waving at local shops, don’t forget a wave for Bakers!
    So many high streets are just turning into clones of each other now, with the same shops offering far more choice on thier websites anyway, and even local markets are crammed with cheap imported tat – I recently spent a few days in a French village whee the market was a destination in itself, with glorious food stalls, proper fashion, hand made jewellery and not a mass produced t-shirt in sight. We’ve put up with rusbbish for so long we are in danger of losing the good stuff completely.

  • Oooh don’t get me started! Oh, you have. Well….
    Landlords, hello! No one can afford your rent. Drop it. Now.
    Council, parking charges. totally agree.
    The only reason ONLY reason to go to a High Street is to find independent retailers with something different to offer but the poor sods can’t afford the rent. Hence a plethora of charity shops who have their rent subsidised. I only shop in charity shops now. No choice!