Have you noticed lately, how your local high street feels a little empty lately? You can probably remember, if you are over 25 years old, going shopping with your parents and holding their hands, so that you didn’t get lost in the crowds of people that filled the pavements and shops. Over the last twenty years, this sight is sadly becoming ever more scarce. The high streets now are often deserted places where once thriving, quality shoes are being replaced by second hand and charity shops. The second hand shops try to disguise themselves as ‘vintage’, but we have learned that, often, they are full of overpriced worn out goods.
So how did we get to the stage where shopping towns have now become irrelevant? There are obvious reasons. You will find below, my theories on the subject.
Working Tax Credits
Working tax credits serve an admirable and essential service to those who are employed and working long hours on a low wage. They do, in my humble opinion, create a problem for high streets, however. Working tax credits, business rate relief, housing benefit and council tax benefit allow people to open tatty shops. It often doesn’t matter if the shops make a profit or not. People are able to rent premises for a low price, fill it with second hand junk, sorry ‘vintage goods’ and come and go as they please. They often only open for a small number of hours per week and use any excuse not to turn in at all. The people that open these shops are effectively still living on benefits without being asked to look for work. Walk down the high street, and you will see these shops everywhere. They have cheapened the shopping experience for customers who now see no benefit in going into town. People that open ‘vintage’ shops shouldn’t be entitled to tax credits; that way the quality of the high street will improve.
With the whole world as a market place, how can a high street shop compete? Now that devices like the ones found at http://www.uk.insight.com/category/computers/tablets-pdas-and-smartphones are so cheap, anyone can find goods for bargain prices that are delivered to their doorsteps. Because the online retailers move so much stock, they will often deliver for free as well as undercutting real shops.
Retail Parks and Large Stores
Big companies rule the country and on the outskirts of every town are large stores and retail parks. These places sell just about everything that can be found on the high street. Every independent retailer knows that it is only a matter of time until a major player in the market opens a large store in their town. It is an uncomfortable feeling. Councils seem unable or unwilling to halt the march of the large companies as they bring employment and money to the area. It is difficult to argue against this, but maybe regulations could be brought in to limit superstores from selling a certain product if there is a long established business in the town that has traditionally sold it. This could only apply to businesses that supply a niche in the market and not to general stores.
We often hear shopkeepers asking the public to support them, but why should they? What have they done for the public. The demise of the high street is taking place right now, and it cannot be stopped. So go out and walk down the street to remember how it looks, it won’t be like that for much longer.