Saving the High Street:

Do you remember back in 2018 when Mike Ashley declared that the British high street would be dead by 2030? The targets of his anger were MPs in general and the then-Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in particular. Ashley argued that any more taxes on the high street would result in its collapse. The main threat would come, of course, from increasing competition from online retailers. Fast forward three years (and a pandemic) later, and saving the high street is now a real cause for concern. 

The Impact of the Pandemic on The High Street

Ashely’s declaration was made well before both coronavirus and its subsequent lockdowns. Anyone who has ventured into a high street lately will know the devastating effects lockdown has had. 

The second round of lockdown measures was reported to have ‘battered’ footfall in the run-up to Christmas. It was a statement made all the more apparent when Bonmarché subsequently collapsed into administration. 

Figures for Boxing Day, traditionally one of the year’s busiest shopping days, suggested that footfall was down 60%. 2020 was reported to be the worst year for retail job losses for 25 years. 

Now we are in the third lockdown, and Northern Ireland has just announced that its lockdown will continue until March 5th. 

What is being done to protect the High Street?

Drops in footfall are never good news. But, high street shops have been dealt a double blow. While their direct high street competitors may also be shut, their online ones are not. 

There will undoubtedly have been a large number of high street shoppers who have converted to online shopping. Who can blame them? Having your shopping turn up without the hassle of finding a parking bay, and trawling through aisles to find what you want, does have its appeal.

So, those working in the high street stores are naturally concerned, even allowing for Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plans to extend the furlough scheme further. 

Politicians are already talking about there being ‘no guarantees’ of lockdown being lifted by the spring. Meanwhile, we continue to line Amazon’s pockets by buying everyday items we would previously have bought in our local shops.

To sum up

One day all this will come to an end. Life will go back to ‘normal.’ But will that be too late for the British high street? Will we have become so used to working from home that, to take just one example, ‘the commuter economy’ will never recover? 

If we are serious about saving the high street, there has got to be some new ideas, and an acceptance that it does not just equal retail. 

There are, of course, those who believe that the inability to go to the shops will mean a time of revival for the high street once lockdown is over. Whatever happens, if it is to survive, it will need help and change along the way.

Local councils will need to become proactive and high streets will need to become a mix of retail, leisure and public space. In short, saving our high street may be about stopping thinking of them as… traditional high streets. It may now be time to encourage them to take full advantage of that which online shopping can’t replicate… the full shopping experience!

If you are concerned about how the high street predictions might impact your business, or that of a friend or family member, then please do get in touch. We do offer business financial planning. and trust us! –  that can go some way towards protecting your business and ensuring that it is best placed to meet change when it comes!


Written by Ben Griffiths

Ben is a financial planner from our Whiteley office. While he specialises in pension planning, Ben is also able to generalise into all other areas of financial planning.

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