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Wanderer Vagabond

Are we seeing the end of High Street shops?

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I'm hoping that the answer to my question above is a resounding 'no' but as I travel around I cannot say that I'd be too sure. I've visited a number of towns whilst pottering around the system and very few, if any of them have what could be described as a thriving High Street. With exceptions such as Market Harborough nearly all seem to be struggling severely. We have had the collapse of BHS, Maplins and Toys r Us now both in administration (probably technically not High Street shops since most are on retail parks) and Mothercare, Poundland and House of Fraser are struggling and now all making AVC's with the intention of closing stores. My own home town of Torquay has a main street populated by closed-down shops, damaged when BHS failed and now a large New Look store is due to close the street will be hollowed out. Even in cities such as Birmingham I noticed on my last visit that a Morrisons supermaket that had closed before my previous visit about 18 months earlier was still unoccupied, and this was on Broad Street.

 

I don't think that there is any political point scoring to be made here since it is something that has been going on for a number of years now, the first major shock being when Woolworths went out of business. The question is how much longer will High Street shops be sustainable if people aren't buying from them? My son worked in a long standing white goods shop where people would visit to view the washing machines, TV's, freezers etc and then go back home and order them from Amazon because they were cheaper. It is all very well buying online but there is no social aspect to it, is there? The High Street would be where you would meet local people and interact, once they are gone towns will become a bit soulless. Charity shops and bookmakers, the most prevalent shops, do not make a community.

 

An argument can be made that 'the world moves on' but is it really going to be for the better when the High Street is no more?

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We try and buy a lot of our big stuff from John Lewis as their prices are not that bad and they keep a record of purchases so when they break after 20 months you can take that toaster back without worrying about where the receipt was. Not quite high street but high end stuff. Most middle stuff we get from amazon. Too easy.

 

60 years ago, my mum used to take me down to the village coop, and give them a form with all the weekly groceries ticked. On Thursday nights, the little man would turn up with the van and the weekly delivery. Who needs internet!

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Recently we visited Tring, there was just one shop where I could buy a set of bathroom scales, and they had only one in stock. I bought it but it turned out useless, it was a Salter manual one. I paid £15 for it. I bought a really good digital one through Ebay for about the same price, it's exactly what I wanted out of a choice of over 50 or so. Ebay delivered to an Argos which was next to the GU. The internet is killing the high street, the high street cannot possibly compete.

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4 minutes ago, Jennifer McM said:

Recently we visited Tring, there was just one shop where I could buy a set of bathroom scales, and they had only one in stock. I bought it but it turned out useless, it was a Salter manual one. I paid £15 for it. I bought a really good digital one through Ebay for about the same price, it's exactly what I wanted out of a choice of over 50 or so. Ebay delivered to an Argos which was next to the GU. The internet is killing the high street, the high street cannot possibly compete.

I have to agree but there are a multitude of other pressures also helping to destroy them. The principal complaint of the guy in the shop where I used to buy my freshly roasted coffee (now also gone) was that people could go to out of town retail parks, park their cars for free and wander around. In Torquay town centre pretty much all the street parking is metered. The cost of business rates was another factor driving the shops away, pretty much everything seemed to be conspiring to put my coffee man out of business, and eventually succeeded.

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Sadly, High street shops are having a tough time. Parking charges are much too high, internet shopping, is much easier with excellent choices, quick delivery and keen prices. In Chesham there are one or two good stores in the High Street - a traditional ironmonger..... and a good camera shop, the rest are estate agents, coffee shops or charity stores, oh! and 5 opticians.

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33 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Price of course comes into it but high street shops have no way of winning on that score as their rents are highest and of course staff on the ground have to be paid in greater numbers than a similar warehouse operation. No political party is to blame this can be fairly and squarely placed in my and others laps.

High street rents will and are falling, due to poor up-take of empty units, staff on the ground - poor customer service standards and product knowledge don't help to make these employees viable. Not sure it's all lazyness driving home deliveries, long working hours often make shopping difficult, so home delivery is a reasonable option - it's really one up from the enterprising milkman who sold bread etc from his float. 

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To be fair, home delivery is hardly a new concept: I remember my Mum placing a weekly order with a grocer who then delivered it, that would be in the mid-1960s. Actually I have just remembered that Dad said at the time "Before long, these supermarkets will start delivering, and that will be the end of the grocers' shops". At that time there was only one supermarket (Elmo) in the area. History has proved him sort of right.

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22 minutes ago, Athy said:

To be fair, home delivery is hardly a new concept: I remember my Mum placing a weekly order with a grocer who then delivered it, that would be in the mid-1960s. Actually I have just remembered that Dad said at the time "Before long, these supermarkets will start delivering, and that will be the end of the grocers' shops". At that time there was only one supermarket (Elmo) in the area. History has proved him sort of right.

That's what I said in my first post. Not a new concept at all.

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One of the problems, as I see it, is that a large part of the hours that the high street shops are open is when the vast majority of their customer base is at work earning the money to spend there... then when the potential customers are available to spend spend spend - the shops are closed, so the money goes online and delivery happens pretty damn quickly.

 

If the High Street wants to survive they have to compete with the interweb on availability not just price. If I want to buy a fridge, yes I can go to the high street to look at one, but they'll probably tell me it's got a four week delivery, so rather than have my food go off I'll go online and get next day delivery.

 

OK it means that people working in retail may have to rethink their working hours ... but surely its better to work anti-social hours than no hours at all?

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11 hours ago, Wanderer Vagabond said:

I'm hoping that the answer to my question above is a resounding 'no' but as I travel around I cannot say that I'd be too sure. I've visited a number of towns whilst pottering around the system and very few, if any of them have what could be described as a thriving High Street. With exceptions such as Market Harborough nearly all seem to be struggling severely. We have had the collapse of BHS, Maplins and Toys r Us now both in administration (probably technically not High Street shops since most are on retail parks) and Mothercare, Poundland and House of Fraser are struggling and now all making AVC's with the intention of closing stores. My own home town of Torquay has a main street populated by closed-down shops, damaged when BHS failed and now a large New Look store is due to close the street will be hollowed out. Even in cities such as Birmingham I noticed on my last visit that a Morrisons supermaket that had closed before my previous visit about 18 months earlier was still unoccupied, and this was on Broad Street.

 

I don't think that there is any political point scoring to be made here since it is something that has been going on for a number of years now, the first major shock being when Woolworths went out of business. The question is how much longer will High Street shops be sustainable if people aren't buying from them? My son worked in a long standing white goods shop where people would visit to view the washing machines, TV's, freezers etc and then go back home and order them from Amazon because they were cheaper. It is all very well buying online but there is no social aspect to it, is there? The High Street would be where you would meet local people and interact, once they are gone towns will become a bit soulless. Charity shops and bookmakers, the most prevalent shops, do not make a community.

 

An argument can be made that 'the world moves on' but is it really going to be for the better when the High Street is no more?

It has been a long journey to get where we are I think. First, it was the growth of large chains pushing out smaller individual shops from the high street. Following that we had the trend for large out of town stores of all kinds in retail parks. This started the rot in thinning out what was on the high street. The large ou t of town retail parks made some inner town centre ghost towns in some places. E-commerce has been a late comer to the party but adding to the high streets woes.

 

The majority of people follow these trends and shop where it is cheaper.  Few can afford to pay more for everything just because they want to shop local. We are all responsible in that way. Given that we are here online on a forum I bet forum members all buy some stuff online.

 

Personally I do like to shop local and we are fortunate in some ways that given that North Wales is one of the lowest populated places in the UK big chains avoid it in all but the largest towns leaving some scope for the local traders but I couldn't say that all shops everywhere are occupied. We like to shop in Bala and Corwen where there are still good local butchers and all sorts of specific traders and a good small Coop in Bala. Prices on the whole are not that bad given the area. However, things like white goods and other mass produced electrical items etc. are best purchased on the internet.

 

Here is where I think the flip side of the story is for many.  I have to drive a long way to get to a large store selling white goods at a price worthwhile buying.  Broadband and the internet e-commerce has brought those stores to my front door.  People living in remote places for the first time have access to the same prices for goods that people in large towns and cities pay and they bring it to your front door!

 

So I think  there is good and bad about it. The world turns and the world changes.

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13 minutes ago, KevMc said:

One of the problems, as I see it, is that a large part of the hours that the high street shops are open is when the vast majority of their customer base is at work earning the money to spend there... then when the potential customers are available to spend spend spend - the shops are closed

How, then, did our grandparents, our parents and ourselves when young ever manage to buy anything? It must have been awful back in those dark ages.

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

How, then, did our grandparents, our parents and ourselves when young ever manage to buy anything? It must have been awful back in those dark ages.

A lot of the shopping would have been done by housewives, and most shops would have a small regular staff working during the week (with half day closing), augmented by Saturday boys and girls to cope with the extra footfall at weekends. We weren't in such a rush for everything either.

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

How, then, did our grandparents, our parents and ourselves when young ever manage to buy anything? It must have been awful back in those dark ages.

Indeed so but it is also true that fewer married couples and families all worked full-time. So one of them most likely the woman would be at home and could go out and shop etc. Not universally true of course but more so than now when it is more common that both partners work full time.

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I miss the pop man delivering my dandelion and burdock once a week, and I miss wandering around looking at high st shops.

However, now I can order things I need via amazon Prime and have them delivered within two hours. 

I can do my shopping over the internet at work.

I can peruse holidays online and make an informed decision rather that sitting for hours in a travel agents whilst the kids get bored.

I can use the time saved to do something else I enjoy.

 

it's all good in my opinion.  Would rather the high street shops be converted into homes....than more new houses being built on green belt land.

 

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Gentlemen, you both anticipated my reply - or should that be, I anticipated your replies? Certainly, housewives often shopped for food and household items during the week - though from what i remember, at a local corner shop rather than on the High Street. The big shopping onslaught came on a Saturday (as most shops were not then open on Sundays). If you weren't stocked up with bread, milk etc. by the end of Saturday opening hours, which at many shops ended at 1 p.m., you went hungry and thirsty.Yet we all seemed to cope rather well.

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

Gentlemen, you both anticipated my reply - or should that be, I anticipated your replies? Certainly, housewives often shopped for food and household items during the week - though from what i remember, at a local corner shop rather than on the High Street. The big shopping onslaught came on a Saturday (as most shops were not then open on Sundays). If you weren't stocked up with bread, milk etc. by the end of Saturday opening hours, which at many shops ended at 1 p.m., you went hungry and thirsty.Yet we all seemed to cope rather well.

I knew you where going to say that I must be physcic!

 

It is a more modern trend to do a "big shop" when I was a child people bought stuff when they needed it and put orders into the local grocer/butcher etc for stock items. 

Edited by churchward

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5 minutes ago, churchward said:

Indeed so but it is also true that fewer married couples and families all worked full-time. So one of them most likely the woman would be at home and could go out and shop etc. Not universally true of course but more so than now when it is more common that both partners work full time.

People wasn't as materialistic back then, there wasn't the keeping up with the Jones'. Happiness is sort of abstract, were they happier then? I'm pretty sure there wasn't the pressure to have the latest 'thingy bob'! The term 'high achiever' wasn't invented in those days, I do feel sorry for those that need to prove their worth by their possessions. I've been there, and got the scars - this is why I just love living simplistically on the water. 

7 minutes ago, Athy said:

Gentlemen, you both anticipated my reply - or should that be, I anticipated your replies? Certainly, housewives often shopped for food and household items during the week - though from what i remember, at a local corner shop rather than on the High Street. The big shopping onslaught came on a Saturday (as most shops were not then open on Sundays). If you weren't stocked up with bread, milk etc. by the end of Saturday opening hours, which at many shops ended at 1 p.m., you went hungry and thirsty.Yet we all seemed to cope rather well.

The shock of discovering we forgot to go to the bank on Friday, no ATMs, no money!

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2 minutes ago, Jennifer McM said:

 

The shock of discovering we forgot to go to the bank on Friday, no ATMs, no money!

Well remembered, Jennifer - though most shops would accept a cheque in those days, far fewer do that now. I do remember my friend and I counting our change to see if we had enough cash to go to the pub on a Sunday evening.

 

Equally, I can remember when the first cash machines came out. It must have been about 1969, and Barclay's were the pioneers. I remember the same friend getting his Barclay's cash card and using it in the effulgent new machine in Muswell Hill Broadway: a small crowd gathered to watch the procedure. The machine dispensed £10 in £1 notes, which came out of the slot in a paper Barclay's Bank branded wrapper. My friend removed the cash from the wrapper and handed it [the wrapper!] to one of the onlookers, who thanked him and walked off with it as if it was a trophy.

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44 minutes ago, Athy said:

How, then, did our grandparents, our parents and ourselves when young ever manage to buy anything? It must have been awful back in those dark ages.

One didn’t buy so much stuff.

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I thinks its simply the wrong Business Model , People increasingly through the Internet are used to paying Discounted Prices , ones which the High Street simply cant match .

I was in John Lewis last week , traditionally they used to stock some nice British Made furniture , Brands like Ercol and Parker Knoll , now they want £500 for a Coffee Table made

in Bangladesh , only a fool could fail to see that they are being robbed .

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1 hour ago, Jennifer McM said:

People wasn't as materialistic back then, there wasn't the keeping up with the Jones'. Happiness is sort of abstract, were they happier then? I'm pretty sure there wasn't the pressure to have the latest 'thingy bob'! The term 'high achiever' wasn't invented in those days, I do feel sorry for those that need to prove their worth by their possessions. I've been there, and got the scars - this is why I just love living simplistically on the water. 

The shock of discovering we forgot to go to the bank on Friday, no ATMs, no money!

I think this is the secret to a happy life. Live simple but contentedly. 

  • Greenie 1

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13 hours ago, Wanderer Vagabond said:

I'm hoping that the answer to my question above is a resounding 'no' but as I travel around I cannot say that I'd be too sure. I've visited a number of towns whilst pottering around the system and very few, if any of them have what could be described as a thriving High Street. With exceptions such as Market Harborough nearly all seem to be struggling severely. We have had the collapse of BHS, Maplins and Toys r Us now both in administration (probably technically not High Street shops since most are on retail parks) and Mothercare, Poundland and House of Fraser are struggling and now all making AVC's with the intention of closing stores. My own home town of Torquay has a main street populated by closed-down shops, damaged when BHS failed and now a large New Look store is due to close the street will be hollowed out. Even in cities such as Birmingham I noticed on my last visit that a Morrisons supermaket that had closed before my previous visit about 18 months earlier was still unoccupied, and this was on Broad Street.

 

I don't think that there is any political point scoring to be made here since it is something that has been going on for a number of years now, the first major shock being when Woolworths went out of business. The question is how much longer will High Street shops be sustainable if people aren't buying from them? My son worked in a long standing white goods shop where people would visit to view the washing machines, TV's, freezers etc and then go back home and order them from Amazon because they were cheaper. It is all very well buying online but there is no social aspect to it, is there? The High Street would be where you would meet local people and interact, once they are gone towns will become a bit soulless. Charity shops and bookmakers, the most prevalent shops, do not make a community.

 

An argument can be made that 'the world moves on' but is it really going to be for the better when the High Street is no more?

There's no Morrison's on Broad Street, I think you mean the one on New Street?  To be fair, there are very few empty units in the centre of Brum, and where there are, it's usually related to an ownership/lease dispute.

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The retail side of High Street shops clearly have no idea how to interact with their own companies' dabblings with the internet.

I recently walked into a Lloyd's Pharmacy, on a shelf I saw an Infrared massager, priced at £19.99.

"I'll have that please" I said offering a £20 note. The chemist flashed it in front of the scanner and said that's £34.45. 

I shan't bore you with the details but I told him he needed to sort his shelves and tickets out.

 

When I got home I went on their internet site and saw the same product being advertised at £25.  So, two days later, being bored, I rang back the same branch and enquired about it. 

The same man told me they hadn't any in stock. I told him their website said they had two in stock at his branch and that I had just seen them half an hour ago on the top shelf by the door.

He muttered something about " ….. they should have gone back ….." and then said "They're only £25.00 if you order it through the website, otherwise they're thirty something.

 

I asked what happens then after I order it over the internet.  He told me I pay the £25 there and then.  After a couple of days they email me to go into his branch and pick one up.  I asked if they had to send him a third one for me to pick up.  He snorted and said of course not, we have two here now.  I enquired why I couldn't just come into his shop and buy one now then or even pay over web and then pop in after to collect. He laboured his answer as he clearly felt I was an imbecile.  B e c a u s e …. e v e r y o n e   i n  r e t a i l  o p e r a t e s  l i k e  t h i s  n o w  he explained.  I assured him they didn't and invited him to enter the chip shop opposite, slap £2.50 on the counter and walk out with a bag of chips.  The heavy sigh from the other end suggested this conversation was going nowhere, I was clearly trying to rationalise a daft situation with somebody who had no authority, immense responsibility I imagine but no decision making ability.  He was possibly as fed up with what he was being told to say as I was in hearing it.

 

Instead I went back onto their website and elected their Feedback/Contact us option and detailed the above.  I politely explained my frustrations and highlighted the pricing differences, I finished by asking why I was being forced to visit their premises more than once in order to purchase let alone wait for their permission to collect when I was required to pay up front, knowing that the product was there all along.

I immediately got an automated response that focussed on how important my mail to them was and promised me a reply as soon as they had one to offer (perhaps it was the same procedure for releasing Infrared massagers?) Anyhoo after a week I sent them another email pointing out I hadn't heard anything from them.  I didn't even get an automated response to that one.

 

You wouldn't run a market stall like that, I decided even if they saw the short comings of their flawed business model, I for one had lost confidence in their ability to not pee me about in the future. I didn't want to be plagued by them once they had my personal eMail address and proof that I was dim enough to jump through their hoops.

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7 minutes ago, Parahandy said:

I thinks its simply the wrong Business Model , People increasingly through the Internet are used to paying Discounted Prices , ones which the High Street simply cant match .

I was in John Lewis last week , traditionally they used to stock some nice British Made furniture , Brands like Ercol and Parker Knoll , now they want £500 for a Coffee Table made

in Bangladesh , only a fool could fail to see that they are being robbed .

But JL are "never knowingly undersold". Certainly, when I wanted a new radio a little while ago, I looked at the various models on the internet, chose a Roberts Vintage, then compared prices - resulting in my going over to Peterborough to buy my radio in their store there, as it was cheaper than anywhere else.

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