End of the High Street?

Theres been a lot of hype in the past few months about the end of the high street. Is it still relevant when you can get everything you need online? Can independent stores afford the soaring rents and compete with Costa and Tesco? There are no reverse effects for our increasingly online spending habits, but as more retail outlets announce store closures- could this be a good thing? 

Economists and architects predict that it could be the end of the High Street – but only as we know it. Instead of the shopping experience we know, the high street will become a social hub, offering shared workspaces, classes and experiences that you couldn’t get online.  

Shopping destination such as Westfield, Stratford (London) are already catching on – in 2012 they hosted the olympics, they have days out for kids, arcades, restaurants, cinemas and a gym. This is increasingly common in shopping malls (especially in big cities), people come out for the experience. 

Positive Future of the High Street 

As people get lonelier, town Centre spending is set to actually increase in the next five years by 4.9% (£5.3bn) according to globaldata. Contactless and concept stores are also set to increase. There are now 22,000 coffee shops in the UK (and who doesn’t go into town and immediately needs a sit down and beverage before traipsing around the shops?) proving that even if you can get something at home, being out in public always has a draw. 

This is why experts believe that towns should be investing in community and leisure centres to draw people to the high street to socialise and have a good time, not just to shop. If we look at what is being shut down on the High Street and what’s booming there’s a trend in “experience based” places: nail salons, hair salons, cat cafes, book stores that also offer talks… 

However, if the High Street is about having a social infrastructure then perhaps the blame on stores closing down lies not just with the consumer who would rather be online but within the communities; does your town centre have parking? Is it accessible for wheelchairs and prams? Bike friendly?

The official government website summarises their “Future High Street Fund” as helping local high streets evolve and adapt to the fact that people no longer do big shopping trips, shop little and often and shop around, and often shop online.

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