Just how much have our high streets changed?
Part of my role in opening new estate agency branches across the UK involves the need for premises. Now, 10 years ago that was a major problem, finding quality units in the right locations with the correct planning consent could (and usually did) take months, nowadays most towns have lots of immediate options and because the local councils are keen to rid themselves of empty shops will also agree a change of use – well I say that this is the case in most places bar London of course, which is still a nightmare!
This got me thinking though, just how much have our high streets changed and I don’t mean over 50 years, I mean over the past 5 or so. I have been looking into this and the numbers are shocking. Back in 2003 there were 67,000 pubs in the UK, but as we all know, our local boozers have been closing at a rate of knots – in fact the statistic for last year is 4 pubs closing every day! Companies like Tesco’s have taken advantage of this and have converted over 100 pubs into stores since 2012 (including 2 in my home town), but it’s not just the pubs that have gone. As people change their habits moving more towards online activity, banks have been closing all over the place, in fact 300 have already closed this year and 1,000 communities have lost their banks in total, with more likely to follow. My local butchers has recently closed, he’s been trading for 20 years and greengrocers have been closing at a rate of 5 per week for the last 11 years! It’s also worth noting that we now have half the number of Post Offices than we did 30 years ago.
So what’s next for our high streets? In my view is simple, the local councils need to attract more independent businesses and of course customers. Why would you go to a small town, to pay ridiculous parking charges and find empty shops with no choice, when a few miles away you can visit your local mall, with every shop going, great restaurants, entertainment and free parking…. we all do it! Councils need to reduce rates and offer free parking (maybe some interest free startup packages too?), with landlords offering sensible terms to attract new ventures in order to bring back some life to our towns. As much as we want to help charities, I am a little sick of seeing their shops everywhere (I guess the public might say the same about estate agents too!) as we all want choice and quality.
So Councillors please listen, surely it’s better to have a thriving high street than a dead one that you are overcharging to balance the books, let’s look to the future before local shopping ceases to exist!
P.S. Can you believe that Germany v Brazil score, am still stunned!