The steady decline of UK high streets

Written by Comment

Cuts, inflation, and price increases aren’t only affecting the general public but businesses as well. The past couple of months have seen major high street companies being forced to close their doors. Well known traders, HMV, after being bought by Canadian Firm Sunrise Records, has shut 27 stores across the country. Patisserie Valerie hit headlines recently after many of its staff face unpaid redundancy due to similar scale closures, as well as the reduction of many of its concession and Drucker’s outlets. Even Debenhams, who have been a business since 1778, may face as many as 20 store closures this year.

So who’s to blame for the drastic fall in high street retailers? The rise of Spotify, Netflix and online clothing retailers such as Boohoo may suggest a shift in consumer preference to online shopping instead of entering physical stores themselves. There is a lot to be said for the convenience of browsing from the comfort of your sofa and having things delivered to your door. So much of modern day living has shifted into the online world – including banking, route planning and even daily communication with friends – that it seems inevitable that shopping will follow suit.

However, if this were the case, and our generation really are a bunch of internet obsessed millennials, how can we explain the recent resurrection of vinyl and cassette? The reason consumers are pushed towards online consumption in place of physical shopping is not for aesthetic preference, but for price. When the general public are earning less, they are going to spend less. When customers are able to purchase access to unlimited amounts of music online for five or ten pounds a month, or opt for one physical album for ten to fifteen pounds, the choice for many is obvious. The same applies to films and television boxsets that are available far cheaper on sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime than if they were bought from a store like HMV.

The introduction of Universal Credit has made many people unable to afford the cost of basic living expenses and necessities, let alone luxuries like new CDs or clothes. The introduction of cheaper, online options has allowed people to indulge every now and then, where they may not have been able to previously. However, this has also had the adverse effect of pushing high street stores out of business. Until our economy is stable it is likely that their decline will continue.

Last modified: 5th March 2019

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