We are currently living in an age of technology that makes buying that summer dress or those gorgeous shoes almost too easy.
With the click of a button, some brands and stores have enabled consumers to spend money without even leaving home. As consumers, we relish in the idea of shopping without leaving the house but do we ever stop to consider how it might be affecting those on the High Street?
As a result of the catastrophic effects of COVID-19, many of us are staying at home, resulting in major high street brands taking a hit. With reduced footfall, some businesses have closed their doors or are making significant changes. The pandemic has resulted in a considerable number of people losing their jobs, and countless companies have gone into liquidation.
Formerly the function of the high street was to bring a sense of community and identity to your part of the world. Every borough had its own unique and individual high street. In London the most famous streets are Portobello Road, where they filmed Notting Hill, or the infamous King’s Road, home to the Punk Rockers of the 1970s and, of course, Oxford Street and Regent Street, formerly shopping heaven now looking unloved.
These streets used to attract tourists and shoppers from all over the world and would generate a considerable income for the UK. Only this weekend the newspapers are reporting that shops selling men and woman’s fashion are 48% and 58% down respectively in the previous year, this is terrible news.
By the time things finally return to normal, and the streets start to fill up again with tourists and happy shoppers, you’ll notice the empty spaces and the shops that are no longer there.
It may be too late to realise that you never gave a thought to the high street and the livelihood of the local businesses that you loved so much, after all, remember Woolworths? How we all lamented the disappearance of Woolworths, no more pick and mix! But did we spend our money there? No, we didn’t, a business can’t survive on happy memories and empty gestures.
What about the little boutique candle store in Camden Market that you relied on every Christmas for Mum’s present, or the coffee shop with home-roasted beans for dad or the Sock Shop in the shopping mall for all those novelty socks for uncle Dave – gone but not forgotten.
Still, luckily we are an ingenious bunch; and these businesses have stand-alone high street stores complimented by a thriving online trade, which means they stand a better chance of surviving.
A prime example of this is Neom, a lovely British brand which makes the best body lotions and bath products and candles: lovely crafted organic products that always sell out well before the holidays arrive. Visit their store in Wimbledon, south-west London, or Westfield Shopping centre. Neom also has stores in Leeds and Guildford.
While you can buy most things online, there are certain things we like to buy in person, such as underwear from Marks and Spencers or John Lewis and shoes from Russell and Bromley not forgetting the one-off designer shops in Marylebone High Street. Think of how terrible it would be if you couldn’t get a bagel from The Bagel Shop in Brick Lane or visit some beautiful silk material in Shepherd’s Bush market.
It’s time to start raising awareness and support these businesses. Why not buy your Christmas or ThanksGiving presents a little early this year? You’ll be supporting the high streets – and you’ll avoid those horrible crowds and inflated prices.
After all this doom and gloom, there is some good news on the horizon. John Lewis, one of our favourite department stores, has a new chairman; Sharon White – why is this good news? White could single-handedly save the high street by shaking up the establishment and bringing a new dawn to the outdated shopping experience we all know. While she doesn’t have a retail background, White is a fortune teller and won’t allow JL to go the way of Debenhams and House of Frazer. Mark my words White will have a knighthood before the end of 2021.
If you’re apprehensive about going out, don’t worry. With the new rules and regulations issued by the government, shops are taking measures to ensure you and their staff are safe and looked after. From sanitation stations to contactless payments, you’ll be in and out in no time, making it easy and effortless.
Take a wander out into the world with your mask in one hand, shopping bag in the other and support the high street. Research and make a concerted effort to shop on your local high street next time you need something. It’s never been more important to play your part and support the high street before it’s too late.
It is an essential part of the UK, and we are the only ones who can save it. Happy shopping!