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