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OPINION: Is This the End of the High Street?

As Keswick’s much-loved Cherrydidi store (home of Zak the Collie Dog) closes its doors to focus on its online outlet, content creator Caysie takes a look at whether this marks a new era: the death of the high street.

The traditional high street, once a bustling hub of commerce and community, is on its way out.

With the rise of online shopping, changing consumer preferences, and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, is it any wonder we’re seeing so many shops close their (physical) doors?

Community and Companionship

I will always remember Workington’s Tognarelli’s fondly as the favourite café of my late Nanna, who loved a wander around town. She would often sit under Workington’s clock, chatting to people on the benches.

But this isn’t just an anecdote of mine - so many of you will hold fond memories of trips into your local town, days out with family and friends…

It looks as if the next generation may have to make do with family nights in, huddled around the Amazon tab on the computer.

Challenges from E-Commerce

The emergence of e-commerce giants like Amazon and third-party sites like Temu and Shein has significantly impacted traditional brick-and-mortar retail.

Consumers now have the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their homes, with an abundance of choices and competitive pricing - why would you leave the house if you know you can find what you want cheaper and more conveniently online?

While online shopping has been slowly popularised since it’s beginnings, the pandemic has led to increased online shopping - not only out of necessity from lockdown and isolation, but from boredom.

Studies have shown that online shopping leads to spikes in dopamine levels comparable to taking substances - so when you joke about being ‘addicted to Temu’, you might not actually be joking…

Some businesses could survive lockdown via schemes such as furlough and other government grants, but others chose to move entirely online as a protective measure.

Of course, businesses must do what they have to to survive, but surely three years on, we need to be promoting footfall to town centres and custom to local businesses?

The Role of Local Government

Local governments play a crucial role in maintaining high streets by investing in local events and activities designed to get people on the streets and boosting the economy. Events like Whitehaven Alive and Carlisle Zine Fest.

Improving infrastructure, increasing parking availability, and removing private car parking could all help to minimise extra costs associated with ‘popping to the shops’.

This would also help make high street shopping just as convenient and cheap as shopping online.

High Streets of the Future

While high streets may never fully return to their former glory, they can still have a vibrant future.

There are still places of culture, entertainment, and community, offering experiences that e-commerce and online shopping can't replicate.

The high street must evolve, embrace, and prioritise the needs and preferences of modern consumers.

The death of the high street is not inevitable. However, the high street does require support, and a shift in how we view these community hubs.

With the right mix of local and government support, innovative strategies, and a collective push from consumers, the high street can continue to be a vital part of our towns and cities.

It's not the end; it's a new beginning - will you be part of it?

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