In the last few weeks we have seen a fair few high street names go into administration, Jessops, Comet, Blockbuster and HMV to name but four. The high street as we know it is changing, across society (including social media) people have been expressing their sadness in regard to these changes.
These are a few thoughts, not necessarily coherent or logical, but just a few thoughts.
We (as a society) are responsible for these changes on the high street. If we make the choice to shop at Tesco or online at Amazon, we shouldn’t be surprised that the high street changes.
If we (as a society) only go to 99pLand, Poundstretcher, Wilkinsons and similar cheap shops can we be surprised when the up-market retailers (as well as the independents) go to the wall and close down.
We (as a society) can make things change if we want to, look at places like Totnes where local stores thrive and chains are virtually non-existent. If you want your local stores to survive then shop there, actions speak louder than words. However as has been pointed out to me, local and independent usually means more expensive. This is fine if you earn enough to make that financial choice, alas much of society has become accustomed to low prices and as a result find it difficult and challenging to adjust to higher prices. There are also a fair few elements of society who are unable to pay the higher prices too.
We seem to now have a society where we are more concerned about prices and ignore the value of good service, local provision and the quality of what we are actually buying.
I am just as guilty as everyone else.
Then again, all this change may be normal.
Where are all the blacksmiths?
Why do we not worry about the lack of haberdasheries?
Who cares about the coal merchants?
Maybe we’ve forgotten in recent years that big chains are a recent phenomena. We use to be surrounded by independent retailers, but they were driven from the high street by the big chains. Big chains don’t always have the flexibility and dynamism that small places can have.
Or was it something else?
HMV, Jessops, Woolworths all failed to respond to changes in society, they failed to see the impact that the internet would have on our buying habits? Or did they realise that even if they wanted to respond, they couldn’t because of the high costs of leases on the high street. Locked into paying for leases that meant margins needed to be high. They had no choice, they couldn’t compete on price, we didn’t care about service, they were doomed to fail. Over recent years they managed to survive, but finally they couldn’t get the credit they needed, they had to close. I wonder if the landlords were only thinking about short term gains, as empty shops pay no rent over the long term.
Of course we mustn’t just blame the internet, the other big change in our society is the supermarket, no longer a place to buy groceries, it sells clothes, DVDs, CDs, phones, furniture and electrical goods. Why go anywhere else when we can just visit our local supermarket. They also seem to be getting more and more local too. No, I am not talking about the metro, the local and express variants, but the sheer number of supermarkets everywhere. New ones are been built all the time, and local objections seem to be ignored, once open they become very popular.
Nor are the supermarkets and the internet the only cause here, the big out of town shopping malls have their part to play too.
Our high streets are changing, expensive coffee shops, charity shops, pound shops, pawn brokers, bookies, pasty shops. This is our high street, the one we made, the one we got when we decided that the mall, the supermarket and the internet was the place to shop.
So do we care? Should we care?