What next for the high street?

Is the high street dying? With more people shopping online and retail stores moving to out of town retail parks, what is next for the high street?

The decline of physical shopping; going into a store and walking out with an item, is something that was foreseen with convivence and time the two big reasons people stay at home and shop online?

Landmarks on the shift between internet shopping and instore have come across the way, non-more-so than the point in 2015 when Amazon became the most valuable retailers in the US, surpassing Walmart. Furthermore, Britain’s shops have taken a big hit this year with Toys R Us, Maplin, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Mothercare all shrinking or ceasing to exist by the end of the year.

Days such as Black Friday which used to see people go into the high street to grab a bargain have also changed now, with black Friday being far more popular on the internet than in stores. This event also changing to a black Friday week has made it even easier to grab a bargain from the comfort of your own armchair.

The difference with shopping is that its departure is leaving behind swaths of redundant urban fabric. The identity and self-esteem of entire towns and city districts is wrapped up with retail – what, for example, is a “market town” if it doesn’t have a market?

The resulting voids will be of the scale of those left by the closure of docks and factories, with the difference that those left by retail will often be in the centres of towns and cities.

Retail is not dead in stores, but the high street is taking the brunt of the demise, as these stores are now as mentioned out-of-town. This leads to greater ease for shoppers who want to visit multiple stores in one go, often with free parking and close to good transportation links such as motorways. It is no wonder more of these are popping up like the proposed largest centre in Europe in Castleford.

So, the high street is at a crossroads. Traditionalists want it to be saved, realists understand why shops are moving away. Unless people can find it in their interest to open up other things, such as café’s or alternative retail stores, the day of the buzzing high street, especially in some market-towns, will forever be gone.