Chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, has said: “All too often high streets were a poor second to out of town shopping centres.” He criticised local shops for failing to cater for the local population and refusing to offer customer loyalty schemes. He also called on town centres to be cleaned up and made safer, while insisting supermarkets should not be blamed for the demise of the high street.
The Government was so concerned over the demise of high streets that it commissioned Mary Portas, the television presenter and retail guru, to undertake a review, which had 28 recommendations. She said “The new high streets won’t just be about selling goods. The mix will include shops but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places. They should become places where we go to engage with other people in our communities, where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities.”
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, added: “Any suggestion high streets are either not wanted by customers, or are not a key part of the future of our retail sector is completely out of touch with our future consumer and community needs.”
So will high street stores survive in the longer term? Well, it’s a fact that many supermarkets are situated on high streets bringing in lots of customers, and of course the big named stores still have a distinct advantage. It would seem where high streets are struggling they are not providing what the public actually wants!
Of course, online shopping is growing by the day, but it’s not the answer to everything. Some people still enjoy personal service or trying before they buy. They like the feel of physical shopping in a light, bright department store.
The emergence of the retail park has also been another factor, with shopping malls making it easier for consumers to find everything under one roof! There’s also the argument these are the best places to shop when the weather is bad! But in actual fact there is plenty of room for both the traditional and modern to prosper in harmony. We just need to be positive and look more closely at how we can best combine everything together! High streets should be places people look forward to visiting. They should really bring people together!
It would seem high streets of the future, across the land, need to become the thriving hub of any local community – they simply need to make slight changes to fit the modern age. They can be wonderful places and we owe it to ourselves to ensure they survive in the future.