The Death of the High-street

cwilko2011 By cwilko2011, 7th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Analysis

A look at how the shape of British retail has changed, more pertinently, how shopping centres and American style Malls have changed the British High Street irreversibly.

To begin

From humble beginnings in the 19th century to the mega-malls of today, I am interested in how the shape of British retailing has changed over the years.

During Queen Victoria's reign, we saw the high street take the form that we all recognise today, even with some businesses that are still trading. The high street was very much the centre of the community, a place where people could buy everything they needed in one place.

This continued in the same similar format for over a century. Towns were bustling, commerce was local and you needn't go very far to get what you needed, everything was together.

The Mall!

Then the invasion began. The UK has a very strong heritage where its high streets are concerned. There are countless historical buildings dotted in and around the brand new retail units. This is what gave them character. It is not until the late eighties and early nineties that we begin to see a change.

In 1989, Lakeside in Thurrock, Essex first opened its doors. This had a massively detrimental effect on towns and high-streets within a fairly large area. Lakeside was the first major shopping centre of the southeast and holds a large majority of retailers that were once found on the high street. This was the first time in the region that there was a place where shoppers could find almost all the retailers they needed and even some they did not know. Lakeside, though smaller than many of its younger counterparts, actually has one of the largest selling spaces in the UK due to its retail parks build in around the centre.

This marked the gradual decline of the high street in the surrounding areas.

Moving on

Before the end of the 20th century, many other shopping centres were build around the country. There was one that caused both equal amounts of controversy and intrigue. Bluewater Shopping Mall opened in 1999. It is interesting to note that it is merely a few miles away from Lakeside. With it's established customer base and experience, Lakeside managed to hold onto its base of customers.

Bluewater however was completely different in terms of demograph to Lakeside. Where its Thurrock cousin was the arbiter of the High Street, Bluewater was the more upmarket version. It is a distant relative of Bond Street and other more upmarket areas in the West End. For this reason Bluewater has become far more popular than Lakeside with a far wider scope. People not only travel from Kent, Surrey and Essex but there has also been an increase in people form the fringes of London shopping within the centre.

Bluewater was an instant hit, welcoming millions of visitors through its doors. It is the younger, cleaner fresher version of older shopping centres and is busy the whole year round. Like Lakeside, there are high street shops throughout the centre but there are also many more upmarket chains.

The effect?

While the two shopping centres could, arguably, be attributed with generating masses of incomes for the two counties in which they sit. They have both undoubtedly had a massively detrimental effect on their surrounding areas.

Retailers that were once prominent in the high street have moved into these massive shopping centres and left the space they once inhabited open to pound stores and behemoths such as Primark.

People no longer seek the hightstreet for all their needs, smaller business have all but disappeared and traditional businesses that were once thriving have also felt the cut. It surely won't be long before the final death knell is rung for the "old-fashioned" high street.


Bluewater, Cities, High Street, Lakeside, Retailer, Shopping Centres, Towns

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author avatar cwilko2011
English Post-grad guy who loves to read.

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