Fewer shoppers, more empty stores: is it the end of the road to the main streets of Britain?

  1. ITV report

  2. January 16, 2020 at 12:00 a.m.

The number of people visiting the main streets of Great Britain has decreased by 20% in the last decade, according to ITV’s Tonight research.

The significant drop in trade that passes, known as footsteps, is a clear sign of the struggle that the main streets across the country face as more of us buy online and visit retail parks. The figures were compiled by Springboard retail analysts.

While shoppers have fallen, empty stores have gone up. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of vacant stores increased by 2,000 to more than 26,000, which represents 12.1% of all stores in Britain, according to the Local Data Company, according to a sample of the country’s 650 major urban centers.

“Sometimes I can be here all day and only a strange person enters and looks around”

Dalton Road in Barrow-in-Furness is typical of many of Britain’s main streets. Credit: ITV tonight

In this week’s edition of Tonight, the program spent time on Dalton Road in Barrow-in-Furness during the crucial Christmas period to get an idea of ​​what is happening beyond statistics.

Dalton Road is typical of many of Britain’s main streets. There are classic chains, independent stores and problems: empty stores and businesses on the edge, on a road that was once a thriving market.

The bustling Dalton Road in 1961 Credit: North West Film Archive at the Metropolitan University of Manchester

A merchant on Dalton Road is Phil Heath. His toy store was opened by his father in the 1960s and was the ideal place for children in the city. But it is a very different image now. With the change in buying habits and the doubling of online sales over the past ten years, Phil has had to diversify to maintain his business. Now he sells office equipment along with toys.

The Phil Heath toy store has been open for over 50 years. Credit: ITV tonight

We used to make more profits 20 years ago. It’s hard.

If I were a tough businessman, maybe I would think, Hmm. Should I leave the main street? [Or] Should I focus on my office supplies? “

But … I believe in shopping in the city center and I believe in Barrow and the people of Barrow. And I love it.

– Phil Heath

Other businesses on Dalton Road are also finding ways to fight the tide of falling sales. Butcher Neil Charnley has created new products and uses Facebook to promote his business and special offers.

Sandra Collins runs a haberdashery and offers something that the Internet cannot: sewing classes. She runs four classes per week in her store, with customers paying from £ 7 for her expert tuition.

The sewing classes in this haberdashery are demonstrating a service that the Internet cannot offer. Credit: ITV tonight

We bought the store about 33 years ago.

We bought a very deteriorated store and started it, and it was really very lucrative.

And then, it just started going downhill.

[We] I definitely had to do something else or we wouldn’t be here now.

– Sandra Collins

One of those who participated in the sewing class said: “You need things like this, the street is not bright. I don’t really come to town much.”

Another said: “I used to walk along Dalton Road and saw a lot of people and said ‘Hello!’ Everyone would talk to everyone. It was really good. ”

But for some on Dalton Road, the changes in shopping habits are too big to continue. Donna Jefferson calls him a day after 16 years selling hairpieces and costumes.

Donna Jefferson is closing her store after 16 years. Credit: ITV tonight

Sometimes I can be here all day and only a strange person will come in and look around or only the strange person will come in and buy something … and I think ‘God, what am I doing? Because I am here? Why am I losing all day, you know, for nothing?

I know that nothing lasts forever, I know for sure, but I didn’t think it was, I didn’t think it would be as sad as this.

– Donna Jefferson

What can be done to reverse the decline?

2019 was the worst year recorded for retail. The future for street vendors in this new decade is uncertain, to say the least.

We asked High Streets Minister Jake Berry about one of the biggest complaints among business owners: the injustice of commercial rates. Commercial rates are based on the value of the property and not on the profitability of the internal business. Berry said the government is doubling the reduction in small business rates, “a big reduction next year in people’s business rates.”

The local main streets are still ‘vibrant’, says High Streets Minister Jake Berry. Credit: ITV tonight

The high streets are dynamic spaces. They have always been subject to change and the tax system must move so quickly to reflect that, as do retailers and entrepreneurs on our main streets across the country.

– Jake Berry MP, Minister of High Streets

When asked if the main streets are dying, Berry said: “I don’t like this talk about the death of the main street. I think it’s too pessimistic. Go to your local main street. I think you will be very surprised. Your viewers will be very surprised at how vibrant it is, but we have to recognize that the way people buy is changing. ”

The government is offering help, through the Future High Streets Fund. It contains one billion pounds of public money and Barrow is one of a hundred cities on a restricted list to receive part of it.

But is enough money to solve the problem?

Vidhya Alakeson thinks not. She is the executive director of Power to Change, an organization that helps communities to regenerate.

The cash is relatively small given the scale of the challenge.

I think that, in addition to that, to really change things, you need money to help people do new things, to start new business, and that money is not really there. So, it’s better than nothing, but I think it’s limited in what you can really achieve.

Fundamentally, whatever we do to set the commercial rates, will not change the fact that the streets dominated by retailers: that model is broken.

We need a much more diversified offer on the main street. Therefore, the main street should involve retailers, but also public services, so we need to bring libraries and health centers, and that sort of thing to the main street. They give people a great reason to come to the main street.

– Vidhya Alakeson, executive director of Power to Change

Donna Jefferson has opened a new store on Dalton Road. Credit: ITV tonight

Back on Dalton Road, and after the anguish of being forced to close her shop, Donna Jefferson is turning all her efforts into a new company: Coffee Bean coffee.

“I needed to do something that you know you couldn’t get from the Internet,” Donna said.

But why stay on Dalton Road?

“It’s where I’ve worked, it’s where I’ve been, it’s what I’m used to. I like it here, it’s at home,” he said.

“I think the cities will be very, very different in a few years, unless the computers crash.”

ITV News will report on the health of the main streets of the United Kingdom on Thursday, January 16
  • High Streets: End of the road? – Tonight will air on Thursday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m. on ITV. ITV News will report on the state of Britain’s main streets in our programs at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, and its regional news program at 6 p.m. will more closely analyze what happens in The place where he lives.

Last update Thu 16 Jan 2020


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *