Thoughts on The Future of the High Street

1 August 2019

Something I wanted to phase into this blog more this year is discussing real world; you know, the deeper stuff. Beginning my A-Levels, Economics in particular, has made me so much more aware of what's going on around me, and something I find of particular interest is the situation on the High Street and whether there is a future for it in the world we now live in.

So many articles as of late have reported slumps in sales on the High Street, and with the economy in steady recovery after the financial crash of 2008/2009 and "a recovery in household earnings", you'd think sales would be skyrocketing, right? One article that particularly grabbed my attention is provided by Sky News, entitled 'Longest decline for high street since 2011', which actually inspired this post. Nevertheless, both sales and jobs are suffering, with prosperity not yet to be found. So why are we shopping less? But actually, are we really shopping less? Or are we swapping whatever the high street has to offer for something else?

You'd think that, because the high street was doing poorly, maybe there would be a rise in online sales, however even "online sales continue to perform poorly compared to the long-run average". This could be down to the support for the slow fashion movement, a campaign to slow down the endless consumption of disposable, short-life fashion. The fast fashion movement has accompanied a gradual move to online shopping: responsive, trend-led, social media-influenced brands such as Misguided, Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing. These companies appeal to the masses as they're relatively inexpensive, so people feel they are able to dispose of the clothing quickly after use. The movement has slowly infused itself into our culture and, as brands make a more conscious effort, people's mindsets have gradually begun to change. 

Nevertheless, the online industry remains the High Street's biggest rival. But why do we shop online? Well, for starters, it's the more convenient and cost-effective option; even when you review the delivery charges for some online stores, you conclude you'd pay more in petrol if you were to go out instead, right? Plus, you usually get a much wider variety of items to choose from online than in the store, as brands are selective about the items sold in each of their shops. It's also a more personalised experience: endless filters can be applied to your search to quickly get the result you want. And the best part? It can literally be done from the comfort of your own home. These are just some of the reasons why I would choose to shop online rather than make the trip out, but there are probably a plethora of other reasons why. In a technology-led world, online shopping has gradually become the default option. 

The inevitable slump on the High Street is also likely to be a result of the state of Brexit and the uncertainty that currently surrounds the whole fiasco - which I'm sure is old news at this stage. Although Brexit has been on the cards for three years now, a no-deal is becoming even more likely, with the warning that "household budgets could come under intense pressure". It remains to be seen whether Johnson can pull through and achieve a Brexit deal by the end of October - meanwhile, the fate of jobs and companies remain somewhat at stake. 

However, there's evidence to suggest that it isn't all doom and gloom on the High Street. Recently, there has actually been a surge in demand for second-hand and vintage clothes, which has helped to drive sales on the High Street. This is definitely a positive, both for the reputation the High Street and for the slow fashion movement - maybe the High Street is being driven in this direction altogether, and funding could be provided to open up more second-hand/charity shops?

Ultimately, this is only a small handful of reasons why the High Street has found itself in decline; I am definitely no expert on this, nor do I possess all the information to reach a final judgement. As a fashion student, this is, simply, a topic I always find quite interesting and one I wanted to express my thoughts on. What do you think? Is there still a future for the High Street in a world commandeered by economic uncertainty and technology?

Lots of love, 

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