Fel­low Bri­tons, you can save the high street – go shop­ping

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis -

As the high street con­tin­ues to die, are Bri­tons just go­ing to stand by and watch, if they can bear to look away from their phone or com­puter screens at all? Re­search from the Lo­cal Data Com­pany out­lines the strug­gles faced by retailers, with many go­ing un­der or re­struc­tur­ing/down­siz­ing at an alarm­ing rate. Nor does the much-trum­peted New High Street Hip­ster Dawn of cof­fee shops, juice bars, ar­ti­san cob­blers and the groovy-like seem as though it’s go­ing to be enough to plug the gap.

Min­is­ters have been rightly urged to take ac­tion, but what about or­di­nary peo­ple? Do any of us want ghost-town high streets or, on those rare vis­its to the lo­cal cen­tre, want to dis­cover that, while most shops have closed, hey, we could al­ways get our eye­brows shaped yet again?

The death rat­tle of the high street sounds so de­press­ing, but I’m one of those peo­ple mak­ing it hap­pen. I seem to ex­pect the high street mirac­u­lously to thrive while I shop mainly on­line. For the past few fes­tive sea­sons, the true Christ­mas miracle would have been me get­ting off my lethar­gic der­riere to do some real-life shop­ping, in­stead of park­ing my­self in front of the com­puter screen.

Ob­vi­ously, peo­ple who are skint or gen­uinely time-poor are ex­empt, but I’m just in­ex­cus­ably bone idle. Don’t we all need to start look­ing at high streets as ac­tual live or­gan­isms that need nour­ish­ing with hu­man sup­port? Af­ter all, they’re not just back­drops that could so eas­ily be­come as tragic, life­less and soul­less as those creepy fake book­shelves that, yes, you can buy in wall­pa­per form… from Ama­zon!

The govern­ment needs to do more, but so too do the rest of us. Or we can’t com­plain if the Bri­tish high street just slips away.

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