Out-of-town shopping centres and online giants decimated our town centres – what can local spaces still offer that the internet can’t?
It’s not as if no one saw it coming. The decline of physical shopping, the business of getting yourself to an actual place and receiving actual goods from an actual person in return for actual cash, has been predicted – prematurely, as it turned out — since the end of the last century. It was not news in 2011 when David Cameron’s government appointed the retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas as a “high street tsar”, in an attempt to reverse their failing fortunes. Still less was it news in 2017, when the pitifully tiny £1.2m that she was given to revive 12 “pilot” towns unsurprisingly failed, with 969 units having closed during the initiative.
One could choose other landmarks along the journey, the point in 2015, for example, when Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States, or the moment in February when it came to be worth 2.5 Wallmarts. This year, in Britain at least, has been a particularly bleak one for those businesses that somehow seemed part of the national furniture. Well known names such as Toys R Us, Maplin, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Mothercare have been either shrunk or terminated, with 85,000 retail jobs lost in the first nine months of 2018.
Retailers spent the 20th century cloning every town and it doesn’t work. Zara, John Lewis: how boring is that?Continue reading...