In the light of the news that Cambridge has won the award for ‘Healthiest Retail Centre‘, ahead of Oxford Street among others, I thought I would take a look at our High Streets.
A Week in France
I have returned to France for a final week of the Summer, I’m pleased to say I’ve been productive whilst enjoying this relaxed pace of life, keeping up with work. We have visited several ‘dusty towns’ (so named by the children on previous visits) and picked up minimal provisions for survival, le vino, le fromage, du pain, the week wasn’t about shopping. And here’s the thing…No matter the size of the town, there seems to be a thriving, well supported core of shops: boucherie, charcuterie, boulangerie and usually a bustling market. It sounds quaint and old fashioned doesn’t it.
How Is Your High Street?
My local town in the UK has an ailing and ever transient High Street. In the years I have lived here, we have seen shops come and go, many quickly falling by the wayside. The town has little to offer now, coffee shops, charity shops and a few cut price outlets. It is easy to be clinical about it but the truth is, each failing business carries with it a story of hardship for the people who worked within it. I know that businesses fail for many reasons, but the dramatic shift in consumer habits has a large part to play. How many of us are guilty of going in to a shop, finding something we love, recording it somehow then going home to shop online? I confess, I have done it myself. When faced with the prospect of saving a large sum of money or the convenience of delivery to your door, it’s understandable.
Is a Change as Good as a Rest?
In the years we have been coming to France, we have seen slow but definite change. Outside the larger towns, super marches have appeared, super prices, super range…not so super for the local shops. We were here a few weeks ago, I wrote about the local traders who told me that the people don’t come any more. It appears that the majority of these local shops still enjoy their rest, closing for lunch for around three hours is normal. We can predict the future easily and I fear for many, it may not be bright. So what is the solution? Do they enter the world of hard and competitive marketing? Fighting for survival, deploying every weapon in their arsenal to get custom? That just wouldn’t be right for the restful people of these beautiful villages.
Perhaps the story doesn’t have to end negatively, maybe the ending has yet to be written. What could be a positive outcome? How could our High Streets evolve to serve a community, to support local people and to draw people from the giants?Maybe we just haven’t thought of it yet but there is a happy outcome out there.