Editor’s Opinion: High streets are shutting up shop

Image: P L Chadwick

House of Fraser announced on Thursday 7 June, the closure of 31 shops throughout England. Their decision follows a continuous succession of high street branches including Marks and Spencers, announcing further closures as the dot com bubble reaches new highs and breaks new boundaries.

Critics and skeptics of internet shopping damn the bubble as depersonalising the community and creating an isolated and degenerated town centre, as consumers continuously use online shopping for a growing number of items on their shopping list. This has been added to by Amazon, who have been selling fresh produce for a number of years now, promoting itself as being able to deliver anything in a number of hours.

It mustn’t be forgotten that Amazon initially started out as a bookseller and thus the new areas it is expanding into emphasises how internet shopping truly shows how you can have access to anything at the touch of your fingers. This of course has been criticised by many as pirate websites in the dark web now boast of their ability to traffic drugs that are delivered by your postman.

But what is the impact of this on the high street? The impact is definitely expansive, as money that otherwise would have been spent in high street shops and greengrocers, is extrapolated from the community causing redundancies as companies announce store closures. However, it is not all drugs and degradation that the internet has brought to shopping centres and high streets. The internet has expanded the business of many entrepreneurs, who otherwise would not have been able to establish a business. For example, the arrival of clothing websites such as Depop and ASOS Marketplace, has enabled many to set up their own profitable business from their university room, which is certainly better for many, enhancing their quality of life, as otherwise many students are subject to poor working conditions and low wages for long hours.

The decision to close high street shops is thus not all doom and gloom, just maybe for the big multinational companies, which is depressing considering all of the redundancies and that the high streets are becoming hotspots of delinquency because of a lack of community investment. Furthermore, surely the money is now being redirected to faceless companies such as Amazon who are notorious for tax avoidance, which is contributing to many of the problems that are being experienced in society today.

Therefore is this redirection of consumers a bad thing? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it fundamentally depends on where your morals lie and whether you believe in letting economic tendencies run their course or intervening and investing millions into town centres who desperately need the support.

Personally, I think that a balance needs to be found and there is a contextual basis for each town or city that needs to be analysed. For example, in York both independent and multinational businesses are thriving, with the high street typically busy every day of the week and many businesses constantly hiring. Although this can be largely attributed to the large elderly and generally wealthier population, while in poorer cities and towns high streets are disintegrating with unprecedented speed. The long term impact of internet shopping looks likely to continue to renovate the pre-existing structure of shopping and create an alternative way to shop. Whether this will strip the high street completely, I believe, is unlikely

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