Unfortunately for many of us, the past year has forced us to swap the trope of visiting a local thriving high street with tireless returns to the two websites we have annual free next day delivery for. We have hope that, like most trends, the desire to shop directly from businesses on the high street will soon come full-circle; having had that privilege taken away from us for longer than we ever could have imagined, we anticipate the high streets will once again be alive and thriving in the not so distant future.
For businesses unable to withstand the almighty pressures of the pandemic, we hope for their empty spaces to soon be filled with someone’s passion project, ready to take the next step and fly the flag of traditional high street trading. And with open-arms we will welcome them.. although perhaps more likely from a distance!
Phil Pinder is the co-founder of The Potions Cauldron and chair of the York Retail Forum. As a self-styled ambassador for York shopping, he reassures us that the high street is, and will be, very much alive and kicking.
“Rarely a day goes by that the High Street is not featuring in the current news. While it is true the High Street is changing in a rapid way, let me reassure that the High Street and shops are very much here to stay. Despite all the negativity and the huge rise of online shopping, only twenty per cent of purchases are actually made online. When you consider a lot of these are with High Street retailers, then you start to realise that the High Street is still very much a dominant force in our lives.
That said, a lot of factors are now all happening at once that are creating an awful lot of media interest. The first would be the oversupply of the number of shops. For decades we have been building shopping centre after shopping centre, often out of town and usually at the expense of creating anything different. The vast majority were of identical big-name tenants, who also had their own online presences. Having an out of town mega mall like this in almost every town has probably caused more damage to traditional High Streets than any threat created by online. The free parking and unified later opening hours have made them a thing of convenience. That convenience is where online has taken the biggest hit from traditional shops, the convenience meaning you don’t even have to leave your sofa in the first place.
This is where the High Street will fight back. A traditional High Street, and there could be no greater example than York, we have resisted development over the years due the City’s protected status as an ancient beautiful City. Rightly so, we have seen no huge new shopping centres like many Towns and Cities have. We have not seen our little shops disappear to make huge new shops to fit the needs of the larger retailers who have now mostly moved to out of town.
The future for a place like York is very exciting, we have a huge mix of independents retailers that give any High Street a different feel. Even big names have to have different layouts due to the quirky shapes of our older buildings. The City is also very lucky, by having what I believe to be probably the highest unique footfall of any other place outside of London. What do I mean by this? I mean the most unique visits by individual people, we attract over eight million “tourist” visits per year on top of a healthy local population. Compare this to a traditional large City where most visits are made by a lunchtime army of office workers. The same people day in, day out. This means York differs in many ways, and can support very unique quirky shops and brands that you would think would only be seen in a City like London.
A shopping trip to York will enlighten you in ways you had thought were long lost, excite you with shops that you thought only existed in days gone by. The Book of York | City to Coast is an amazing guide where you will discover many wonderful shops, and I encourage you to visit them all, if you can’t do it all in one, then come again soon!”
This article was originally published in our Book of York; a guide to the independent businesses from York’s city to coast. To read more articles like this, and to discover more independent businesses to visit in the not so distant future, click here!