Quite a bleak message is being sent out to business owners in the retail sector this week. The Centre For Retail Research (CRR) is a body that investigates consumer trends and commercial finance, among other nuggets of business data. They predict that in the next five years, as many as 20% of the shop fronts in town centres in Britain will be shaded, lonely and abandoned. Who’s to blame? Well, among the candidates is our old friend internet shopping. It’s so much easier and, in general, a little cheaper. Shops are feeling the brunt of this, especially as we’re suffering the nip of a credit crunch too. As for retail businesses themselves, it’s about 90% cheaper to have a warehouse distribution centre on the outskirts of town than rent a retail outlet on the high street. No brainer.
As for consumers: Every penny counts, and shop/brand loyalty has been flung forcefully out of the window. For example, I love the kebabery on Preston Street, the owner greets me warmly whenever I enter and has been known to give me free refreshments on occasion. I preferentially choose his kebab shop over others. BUT, I can no longer guarantee him my trade. I have more forceful fish to fry, so my business has gone home. I make my own lunch.
This tale of shops closing is no new news, it’s been on the rush for the last few years. What interests me the most about this dark trend of retail outlets departure is the inevitable question of what the empty shops will become. The obvious outcome, of course, is housing. It will be a sad day when the once bustling city centre becomes another dull portion of suburbia. Nowhere to coalesce.
Although most normal human beings are horrified by the idea of a visit to the epicentre of a shopping mecca on a Saturday afternoon, you must ask yourself: where else can we meet humans on an even par but be able to retreat to our given castles and revel in the fact that we can escape these heathens?
The retail sector has changed. Our city and town centres will therefore change. We no longer mourn the lack of iron mongers in our cities, we no longer mourn the loss of cobblers or hatters. As ever, times are moving on, maybe your town’s hearts will become alternative housing, but I shouldn’t imagine humans and human’s businesses will be interfered with indefinitely, the internet has won this battle, but created many more wars.