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The decline of the British High Street


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Mary Portas has issued a Cameron-commissioned report with regards to the decline of the British High Street and what to do about it. It has been reported that more than 50% of spending has now moved away from the High Street.

In her report, Mary Portas makes recommendations to boost the High Street such as:

Deregulation of high street traders.

More free controlled parking.

Annual national market days.

Portas said: "I don't want to live in a Britain that doesn't care about community. And I believe that our high streets are a really important part of pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can."

As one in seven High Street shops are now empty, this is clearly a big issue.

  • So what about you guys? Do you like shopping on the High Street? Or has the Internet provided a better, more convenient platform for shopping?

    Do you feel that you lose that personal touch when shopping online, or are you happy to forgo that to avoid the queues on the High Street?

    Do you know someone who runs an independent shop who has suffered or is suffering the decline of the High Street?

Quotes credit from The Guardian

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I think her idea sounds great as its coming to the point where only the big will suvive.

Where possible me and my GF will only give business to local traders and it seems a big thing in Lichfield and though a lot of these small businesses are still around a good deal havent made it or are in decline.

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Deregulation of high street traders.

So what details does she have on this (the most popular clamouring for how to deal with things all over the shop - no pun intended)?

In her review, the only actual regulations she appears to comment on are restrictions on night-time deliveries and noise. There is also some waffle about businesses big and small have told her that restrictions are an issue, some guff about a 'red tape challenge' and the voice of the few.

I tell you what should be regulated: people coming on to my tellybox screen wearing matching, gaudy rings the size of sodding Saturn on each hand.

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Do you know someone who runs an independent shop who has suffered or is suffering the decline of the High Street?

I know a few independent stores that are thriving. Most of the ones that closed down were terrible.

Offer crap, over-priced products, and insist on only opening 9-5, when everyone's at work? why the hell would I buy stuff there when Amazon will deliver it to my door for less, or I can go to Tesco and pick it up after work?

The decline of the high street is a business model problem more so than anything else. Specialist stores that cater to their customers are still doing well, but the public won't put up with rude 9-5 shopkeepers who charge twice what they should for things people can get elsewhere.

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Rare semi serious post from me...

I live in Hackney on Chatsworth Road. I've been part of the traders and residents association for a while. We're pretty lucky that all the shops on the street are independent; no chains at all. A year ago we restarted the market and it's been a great success.

Mary Said:

Fundamentally I believe that our high streets are uniquely placed to deliver something new. I believe that our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community. A sense of belonging which, as the recent riots clearly demonstrated, has been eroded and in some instances eradicated. I also fundamentally believe that once we invest in and create social capital in the heart of our communities, the economic capital will follow.

It's basically a really pleasant place to visit now. Rather than going to the mall for a coffee, people stay in the community, which strengthens it as we get to know each other, and also the money stays in the community too.

Re free parking every situation is different: eg our street is a busy road and a bus route. Nearly all the parking is metered. What would help us would be for there to be more short stay (eg 20 mins) free spots so that the people driving through could stop off and pick up bits of groceries, a newspaper or a takeaway.

Our association is putting together a neighbourhood plan to try to manage regeneration the way the community want, rather than the way the Council thinks we want, or a developer wants. It's been used as a good example case study in the Portas report...

The report is very good; acknowledges many small businesses are badly run or haven't adapted their business model.

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Do you know someone who runs an independent shop who has suffered or is suffering the decline of the High Street?

I know a few independent stores that are thriving. Most of the ones that closed down were terrible.

Offer crap, over-priced products, and insist on only opening 9-5, when everyone's at work? why the hell would I buy stuff there when Amazon will deliver it to my door for less, or I can go to Tesco and pick it up after work?

The decline of the high street is a business model problem more so than anything else. Specialist stores that cater to their customers are still doing well, but the public won't put up with rude 9-5 shopkeepers who charge twice what they should for things people can get elsewhere.

If someone wants to keep their local business open you have to be realistic too. The big stores buy in such bulk that the small trader cant compete so you will not often get it cheaper by shopping local. Saying that, If the price difference is too much then you have to go for the cost saving.

I went to a local garden centre on saturday to get our christmas tree and he wanted £79 yes £79!!! for a 6ft tree, we ended up going up Cannock chase and paying £40 off the forrestry commission

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I cant remember the last time I did any significant shopping in Nuneaton town centre, it's a somewhat depressing mixture of mobile phone shops and pound stores. Admittedly I am in the somewhat unique position where it is incredibly easy for me to go shopping in a major city centre when it is relatively quiet as my office is not 50 yards from the Bullring and I work shifts so all I need to do is hang around in Brum for an hour or two after work (assuming I finish at about noon) and do what I have to do there. It is a damn sight more convenient than Nuneaton.

How many other people find it easier to shop where you work rather than where you live? Assuming you commute of course.

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Deregulation of high street traders.

So what details does she have on this (the most popular clamouring for how to deal with things all over the shop - no pun intended)?

In her review, the only actual regulations she appears to comment on are restrictions on night-time deliveries and noise. There is also some waffle about businesses big and small have told her that restrictions are an issue, some guff about a 'red tape challenge' and the voice of the few.

I tell you what should be regulated: people coming on to my tellybox screen wearing matching, gaudy rings the size of sodding Saturn on each hand.

Ha, I knew someone would pick up that, thought you might.

The high street is buggered. The mass consumer is interested in 2 things - convenience, and the best deal, not necessarily in that order.

The high street rarely can compete for the best deal, the internet and supermarkets have done it there, and the same 2 offenders have gotten convenience sown up too. Retail parks have taken a leaf from the supermarket handbook, placing them outside town or on major transport routes (if not both) to ensure convenience and also allow a number of big names to set up in one place.

The only thing the high street now seems to have going for it is that some independents can offer things that the net and supermarkets can struggle to do so, niche market items and the like. The obvious thing is stuff like particularly quality foods, or in the case of meats particular breeds that are not feasible to mass produce. Sadly, that is a niche though - most people don't want a premium item like that. The personal touch, while nice, I don't think is enough to save the high street in the face of the appeals of cheaper and more convenient shopping elsewhere.

Even the bigger names on the high street, well known chains will lose out because increasingly they're not terribly nice places to shop in. The focus on add on sales, 'linking' to a purchase increasingly puts off people and alienates them, making them painfully aware that when they walked in the store and considered making a purchase the company desperately wants them to buy high mark up add ons, rather than being a genuinely valued customer they feel they are walking wallet. Why feel like that when on the net you can get the same thing, delivered, probably cheaper, and while extras will be made available to you it's a totally passive offer as opposed to a pushy sale.

Ultimately I think what is good for the individual consumer, mostly what's good for their wallet, will win out. And thats a battle the high street cannot win day to day.

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Vicious cycle at the minute.

As disposable income is squeezed the shoppers ,as Chindie says, will go where is cheapest. This causes the high street to close down and Online businesses/bulk buyers to grow meaning they can then get the goods even cheaper and pass more reductions onto the consumer thus again repeating the cycle as shoppers look for the best deal.

The high street is dying

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How many other people find it easier to shop where you work rather than where you live? Assuming you commute of course.
Given that I work in Bradford, no. It's impossible. There is nothing there except pound shops.

Then again, the only shopping I do is either in the supermarket, or online (95% Amazon), unless I have to undergo my annual (less, if I can get away with it) clothes shopping torture.

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Hmm not so sure abut the logic there B6, one example is a bottle of Coke. Here the local supermarkets (Waitrose & Tesco) both sell a standard 500ml bottle at £1.12, a chip shop no more than 300m away from Waitrose will sell you a bottle of Coke for £1 and it is the fully authentic UK stamped Coke not the dodgy Euro Coke you often get in such circumstances. That is just one example off the top of my head, yes the supermarkets do buy in such large numbers that their cost per unit is much lower, they essentially just make more profit than the high street stores though these days, they don't really pass those savings on the the general public.

In our village, there a plenty of local shops still but there are plenty of empty units and a plethora of charity shops too, a mate of mine used to work out of the local Oddbins before it shut and he was saying that the rents per meter squared on the shops in the village are actually on a par with Regent St, it's quite bonkers.

There are some types of shops that will inevitably go to the wall, they are fighting a losing battle, books shops for example. Waterstones all but did for them a while back and the online giants like Amazon are about to finish them off good style. You can buy the same book with out getting off your sofa, delivered the next day for about half the price, you can even buy books far more obscure than your local bookshop would stock, in fact if you ordered it from them, it would take a couple of days to be delivered and you'd have to make the journey back to the bookshop again to pick it up. Bookshops are a dead duck.

Other local shops continue to survive, we have a local chain of butchers (about 6 or 7 shops all in the same area) and I cannot for the life of me work out how they survive, the prices they charge are astronomical but survive they do. I prefer to go to the actual farm shops of which we have plenty dotted around. There's other stuff that will always be there, barbers shops, coffee bars, though Costa et al appear to be killing off any local competition, which is sad, places to eat etc. We have locally owned clothes shops, they are all dreadful, not one of them sells an item I'd wear, they are usually owned by bimbo wives of lawyers and doctors who get them a shop to run as a hobby but there are plenty of other dumb wives of the wealthy that clearly buy this crap

I think the high street will change but it will survive

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Business rates and rent make the high street a very expensive place to sell your goods compared to the net.

The future is a niche product (how the internet boom started)

Really sad to see high streets, like Erdington, decline into the usual pound shop, gregs, witherspoons type rubbish.

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I live in Hackney on Chatsworth Road. I've been part of the traders and residents association for a while. We're pretty lucky that all the shops on the street are independent; no chains at all. A year ago we restarted the market and it's been a great success...

...Our association is putting together a neighbourhood plan to try to manage regeneration the way the community want, rather than the way the Council thinks we want, or a developer wants. It's been used as a good example case study in the Portas report...

Sounds like the way to go.

Haven't read the report, but I see that one of the recommendations about landlords and rent is

Local authorities should make more proactive use of Compulsory

Purchase Order powers to encourage the redevelopment of key

high street retail space

This could go further. Where she mentions CPOs for redevelopment, what about CPOs in order to assemble a portfolio of properties to be turned over to co-operative management by a consortium of independent local businesses?

Landlords are one of the biggest problems small businesses face, demanding ridiculous sums for basically nothing. Remove the rentier, and there is far more chance of small independents thriving.

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I'd be interested to see how Birmingham is doing this year. Our staff car park is the Bullring car park on Moor Street and it is jammed every day at the moment. It has 3000 spaces and when I turned up for work at 3pm on Saturday it was full, a one-in-one-out system was in place. If that is an indicator as to how busy town gets for Xmas shopping then surely it is a good one? I know the Bullring absolutely dominates shopping in Brum, but I have noticed New Street, High Street and Corporation Street seem as busy as ever this year. I would imagine centres like Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford Street do suck no end of traffic away from the smaller high streets though.

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