The Changing Face of the British High Street

It was Napoléon Bonaparte that said of Great Britain that it is a nation of shopkeepers. Indeed, arguably one of the UK’s most prominent Prime Minister’s Margaret Thatcher, was the daughter of shopkeepers. However, the British High Street is changing at a rapid rate as shoppers prefer to do much of their purchases online.

Figures from the Local Data Company in 2017 revealed that there was only one town throughout the entire UK that did not have any vacant shops. Meanwhile, almost a fifth of all shops were empty in high streets within Yorkshire.

If the current trend continues, the high street shop vacancy rate looks set to rise above the national average of 15%. 

According to data from the Ordnance Survey, Estate agents, travel agents, building societies, recruitment companies, off-licenses and pubs are disappearing the fastest. Bingo halls are another fixture of the high street that have been in decline. From over 1200 bingo venues in the 1990’s to around a third of that number now, UK bingo news is filled with bingo halls are being turned into accommodation or pubs up and down the country.

Although Britain has officially yet to leave the European Union, the effects have already been felt. In UK investing news, consumer confidence is down and business confidence has been stuttering. Retail outlets have been bracing themselves for Britain’s divorce from the EU and this has involved cutting costs and closing stores. 

Consumer Spending Habits

A big factor behind the changing face of the British High Street has been the changes in consumer spending habits. Whilst we no longer feel the need to book a holiday through a high street travel agent, we certainly like drinking our coffee or visiting a discount store in our high streets.

The number of coffee shops, discount stores and charity shops has risen, particularly in Wales. socially minded consumers are turning their backs on larger brands (but still buying their coffee in American branded coffee shops). Online spending is increasing every year as we get more and more used to buying online. Weekly shops via out of town superstores or online are changing the dynamics of the high street visitor. These offer no parking issues, no weather concerns and often, can work out cheaper.

Getting high-quality independent shops and boutiques back into the high streets is a challenge the local councils must tackle. Rent subsidiaries and incentives must be given in order to prevent every other shop being a fast food establishment, a bookmaker, or a generic American coffee shop. We as consumers need to rethink our shopping habits too. Support the local shops and the high streets will thrive more.