Oxford Circus

The High Street – Part 2

On the 10th of April 2020, I wrote a blog about The High Street. I spoke Of the importance of it to our community. In such a few short months, so much has changed I felt I must write The High Street – Part 2.

In the time since my last blog on this subject, the Coronavirus Pandemic has changed so much. The way people are living and shopping is changing at much faster rate than we thought possible. The use of cash has plummeted in favour of electronic payments. Online has excelled in all regards as people have restricted their movements. The high streets quickly became deserted. This has all happened out of necessity.

What does this mean for our High Street

When I last wrote on the subject, I questioned if the changes that our beloved High Street had undergone were sustainable. Are they desirable?

Even now, as the pandemic restriction continue to be lifted, the High Street footfall remains low.

Is it a generational issue?

The older generations have been particularly hard hit by Coronavirus. Many of these people we instructed to shield. As it is this demographic that have grown up using local shops and cash. It would be true to say that whilst these people continue to be nervous, some shops will continue to struggle. However, the problems run deeper.

Big and Small affected

It seems that hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear about a high street failure. Alongside this, jobs are being lost in large quantities. A toxic combination that will be hard to break out of.

Stalwarts of the high street such as John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser are all struggling. As a result of their store closures, it is not just the local High Street that is being affected, but the streets of of towns and cities up and down the country.

Hospitality and entertainment

More than retail, the new hope for the High Streets survival is struggling. Pubs, restaurants, Cinemas and the such like have been closed and are now running on much reduced capacity. In other words, they are struggling as well. Many have not re-opened after lock down. Those that have are struggling to break even.

Working from home

There can be no doubt that the empty office blocks that adorn our cities, towns and suburbs are making the situation worse. As the occupants of these offices continue to work from home, they are not shopping at lunchtime. They are not travelling. In short, they are spending less money, and the money they do spend is online.

Community Spirit

The heart of the community has shifted. One of the positive things to have come from Coronavirus has been the community spirit. As a direct consequence, folk are looking after those around them. The street is the community rather than the High Street. The humble corner shop is thriving.

What does the future hold?

I really don’t believe that anyone knows how this will end. There is no rule book or computer model for this situation. As a result, no one can predict the future.

The confidence of the human race is the key factor. Somehow, this confidence needs to be restored. The country needs to slowly rebuild itself. The fear of a resurgence of this invisible enemy is all pervading and needs to be overcome.

Inevitably, there will be challenges. Such a challenge has not been faced in recent times. There is no rulebook for this situation. I for one am very glad that I am not the one making the decisions. We can have no doubt that mistakes will be made. We must all be positive. Not only positive, but forgiving. Let us not belittle or embattle those making those decisions. We must trust that the errors they will make are as a result of them wanting to do the right thing. There is no space for negative politics.

Let us look forward. We must build The High Street – part 2.

Positive attitudes and support for the community in whatever form it emerges in are a must. Let us embrace The High Street – Part 2.

Stay safe.

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Photo by Joe Stubbs on Unsplash