What will become of the high street?

Come 12 April 2021, non-essential retail (the remains of it) reopens. Already massively hit by online shopping and American-style out-of-town retail parks, the need for limiting customer numbers and the enforced closure for the best part of a year will be too big a blow for some. John Lewis has already announced it will not be reopening 8 of its stores when lockdown ends.

The initial period after reopening is likely to be a boom, people enjoying what has been denied, a good browse, buying clothes and non-essentials, although as there will be requirements to keep distance and wear masks it will be tainted by the feeling that you cannot linger as you would like. The high street will need to become more of a destination, encourage consumers to stay and enjoy everything it has to offer, to compete with the retail parks.

The chancellors expected online retail tax may go some way to level the playing field but the hurdle of making that first purchase online, of building trust in the online retail system has been cleared and the numbers now willing to use their computers to purchase will inevitably have increased.

We have seen for some time empty shops on the high street, looking forlorn and in need of a bit of care, we can expect to see much more of these. Going forward it is likely that diversification will come into play. Lockdown has made us reassess our priorities, I feel social interaction will seem more important, so more places where we can meet & chat. More leisure facilities too, as we prize those things that were restricted in lockdown.

Hobbies and skills have become more valued, so workshops and classes, keeping fit, and family entertainment can all find homes.  I would hope that local products will become more valued, as we reflect on the issues over Brexit and lockdown and the importing of goods.

A village used to have a pub and a post office at its heart,  now most of these have been shut and converted to residential as the population became more mobile, I hope we are looking at an evolution of the high street and hopefully not a farewell. Redevelopment, not redundancy.

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