The covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a decline in the high street that’s been bubbling under the surface for the past decade. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see boarded up shops and businesses, aside from lockdown, on most high streets in the UK and this has been part of the picture of the high street in the 21st century.
A report called Saving the Highstreet carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science found that a large part of the decline has been a lack of transparency when it comes to shop ownership and absentee landlords with no stake in the local community or its uptake either. But there’s no doubt that the internet shopping revolution has played a massive part too.
When high streets are owned and frequented by the local community, it brings a wealth of benefits to an area. Community ownership of business means that they’re often more tailored for specific local requirements and this can bring a lot of stability to an area.
Bigger brands and corporate businesses all have an important role in making high streets attractive destinations, but there is always a risk that they will pull out of an area when their business model requires it. Making sure there is a healthy combination of other local amenities and community businesses means that this is less likely to happen if a bigger brand can access a healthy stream of customers in a vibrant high street.
Local authorities and funders should look to be more creative with empty premises, offering them to community businesses, smaller businesses, pop-up shops with more favourable rates or leases. Giving communities the chance to regenerate the high street and use vacant premises in new ways.
There’s no question about it, the local highstreet is more than just a place to shop. For some, especially older people, it can be how they interact with their community and the wider world. A trip to a shop or bank can lead to bumping into someone for a chat and much-needed interaction, for people that live alone or experience loneliness.
The fact that high streets are starting to change can be very alienating for people that enjoy being a part of their high street community and the relationships that ae connected to it. People are already feeling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the return to a flourishing high street will be very welcome indeed.
Here at SpaceFit, we want to continue to be at the forefront of making high street retail attractive and accessible for everyone. We specialise in interior fit-out projects and we believe that the high street is an absolutely essential part of the consumer experience in the UK, aswell as a public health issue that can promote mental wellbeing. Local communities are stronger when they have focal points that they can take pride in, such as a melting pot of local businesses, big brands and community spaces.
We’ll continue to do all we can to deliver a professional, personal touch for every high street shop and space we work with.