The high street is in crisis. In the last decade, over a thousand shops have closed their doors for good. Signs of decline are everywhere; charity shops and payday lenders are proliferating, while the number of banks and building societies is shrinking. Many of the shops that remain are boarded up, their windows covered in posters advertising cheap rents.
The high street has been hit hard by the recession, but its problems go much deeper than that. The rise of online shopping has been a body blow, and the growth of out-of-town shopping centres has hollowed out town centres. High streets are also suffering from the decline of the traditional department store, and the growth of supermarkets.
The result is that the high street is in danger of becoming a ghost town. In many towns, the only thing still thriving is the pub.
The death of the high street would be a tragedy. Town centres are the heart of communities, and the high street is a key part of that. For centuries, it has been the place where people have met to shop, socialise and trade.
The high street is also an important source of employment. According to the Centre for retail research, the UK’s top 500 towns support over 1.3 million jobs. If the high street dies, those jobs will go with it.
The government has tried to intervene, with a series of schemes to support the high street. But so far, nothing has worked. The truth is that the high street is in terminal decline, and its death is inevitable.