Nostalgia vs Reality
What is the modern high street? How much has the high street changed? and how much of this is it a nostalgic view that you have from being younger? These are the questions that came to me while researching this blog. For me the idea of the high street is closely linked to my childhood. Most weekends were spent wandering around with my friends with £10 in my pocket, but rarely spent on anything of any note. I grew up in Hastings, and as many people who grew up in seaside towns will attest, wandering around the town centre was one of the few things available to you. Hastings to anyone who has been is an archetypal small town. Shopping centre with the usual list of stores like Littlewoods, TopShop and BHS and alike. I recently returned back to Hastings and the change is notable, but not necessarily what would be expected. Hastings has had a lot of investment in recent years, with a large amount put into regenerating the high street. Sure, there are empty storefronts, but they were there 20 years ago, but there are also a lot of positives. New stores, both large retailers and small independents are springing up. In the last few years, a Primark and an H&M have opened, as well as lots of new little cafes and bars catering to all food choices. So for those that say the high street is dying, I suggest that it is just going through change that is hugely intrinsic to the human condition. The high street that I knew as a child is obviously different to the one i know now, however, that is in turn different from the one my parents and grandparents were part of.
For my Grandparents the high street was your only shopping environment. It’s where you went to get everything, from your meat at the butchers to your shoes fixed at the cobblers. As times change and people have moved to shopping centres for their essentials, and now a lot of the shopping experience takes place outside of the traditional town centre or high street but instead, online.
Does this mean that the high street is dying or does this just mean that our trends change and move, as we do. I personally think that although there is no denying that shops are closing, this just means that we as shoppers need to do more to improve these areas. The emphasis here is not only on the retailers, it is on the customers to frequent these places. We cannot keep saying ‘There is no reason to go to the shops if it’s all online’ and then be upset that places are closing. We have a responsibility as consumers to help. There are many retailer experts who are placing the responsibility on the retailers to adapt and look to the digital world, by putting the customer at the heart of what they do. Although I agree with this sentiment, I do also feel that the customer has a responsibility to shop locally. It’s very easy in this modern world to take the stances of highlighting errors without actually being active in the solution. My point here is despite the constant reports of doom and gloom in the high street, I would suggest that this is very much the way of life. Our views are shaped by our memories and nostalgia of ‘how it was then’! We as customers have the ultimate say in how our high streets are now, and what they will look like in the future. As with everything in this world we must accept that we are part of the problem and we must intrinsically be part of the solution.