What do you think of when you think of the British High Street? For me it evokes memories of shopping trips with my Mum, of Saturdays spent with friends and of shops that you think will always be there. It brings back happy memories, but will today’s teenagers have those sorts of memories when they look back?
Now I’m not an economics expert, but it seems to me that the High Street is in real danger of dying out. This week New Look have announced that they’re closing a number of stores and axing 1000 jobs. They’re saying that this is due to Brexit, which I’ve no doubt is something that we will hear a lot over the coming months and years, but is there more to it? How many of us choose to go online to shop rather than go out to the shops? Whilst there’s no denying that the internet has revolutionised the way we live, has it also had a detrimental effect on the way we shop?
As a child, Saturdays were always spent either in the supermarket or going to the High Street of whatever town we were living in so my Mum could shop. If I’d behaved then I would get taken into Woolworths for a toy or some sweets. It seems almost inconceivable to me that today’s children won’t even know what Woolworths is. There’d almost always be a trip into BHS so she could buy some clothes … now that’s gone too. I could sit and list so many shops that I grew up with that no longer exist and it’s actually really sad.
I live in a very small town but when we moved here 18 years ago it had a bustling little High Street. There was a Boots, Clinton Cards, a large clothes shop, 6 banks, travel agents and some independent shops. Now, there is still a Boots and 1 bank. Superdrug got the hell out of Dodge and now there are a lot of charity shops, discount shops and takeaways. It’s not somewhere you’d go shopping through choice. There are a couple of larger towns nearby and it’s the same story. Ok so some of the larger names are clinging on, but a large number of shops have gone. Seeing empty shops is not unusual anymore.
On Monday we went to a local retail park. Now I remember when these started springing up and people would say that they would kill the High Street. It’s quite ironic really as they’re now going the same way as the High Street. Argos has moved from a large store to a little subsection of a nearby supermarket, an outdoor clothing firm is closing down, Toys R Us had sad little banners announcing the closing down sale … it was depressing.
I’m guilty of doing a lot of my shopping online for a long time, but I think this needs to change. Going shopping the other day reminded me how nice it is to actually pick items up and look at them, how nice it is to interact with another person and how nice it was to have my goodies straight away without having to pay a delivery charge or wait for the postman.
Are we heading to all of our shopping being done online? Huge warehouses housing the products of various brands whilst some robot picks your order and some drone delivers them? Is that really progress? Honestly, I think it’s a scary prospect. We could end up never needing to leave the house, never speaking to people, and that is a horrifying prospect.
The British High Street is an institution and I for one don’t want to lose it. So from now on, if there’s something I want to buy that I can pick up from one of my local towns, then I will physically go to the shop to buy it. The internet is making us lazy and unsociable and I don’t want that to happen to me.
Support local businesses as well as the big boys, step away from the computer once in a while and go out to shop. You’ll even get some fresh air, maybe see some people you know and maybe, just maybe, retail won’t turn into some robot operated, soulless machine.