The decline of the high street: a liberal solution

The death of the great British high street is an event rarely out of the popular press, and it has been so for a decade.

Mary Portas was appointed in a hail of publicity by David Cameron to find ways to save the high street as far back as 2011, nothing came of that and the problem has become much worse since the increase in business rates introduced last year, the creation of the national living wage and the dent to consumer sentiment caused by the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

Now I quite like the national living wage announced by George Osborne and certainly dont think it should be scrapped, so what does that leave?

Well the current system of business rates does precisely the opposite of what liberals want for the economy, because it penalises small shopkeepers and high street stores relative to much larger businesses, including Amazon.

Liberals have historically sought to create an economy full of thousands of little buyers and sellers, rather than oligopies, the tech giants have extreme power in their markets, and the current business rates regime is simply helping the oligopolists against the little guy, so the first act of a liberal government should be to reform business rates to force the large online only retailers to pay their fair share.

But a more radical and profound change, one that would empower policy makers at a local level to boost their high street is the introduction of a local sales tax, to replace VAT,

The rate of this tax could be varied by devolved or local authorities, depending on the health or otherwise of their high street, and the importance of same to the local economy.

Such a policy would be localism in action, and a chance for the state to achieve a deep reform, and strike back against businesses too powerful to need to serve the interest of society.

* David Thorpe was the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for East Ham in the 2015 General Election

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  • Simon mcgrath 11th Jun '18 - 8:15am

    Local authorities are far too small for this to work. Affluent areas would be able to set a lower rate of sales tax and encourage shoppers from neighbouring ( poorer) areas to shop there .

    It would also encourage the growth of online shopping as the online shops would Base themselves in low sales tax areas

  • William Fowler 11th Jun '18 - 8:47am

    Almost as soon as the minimum wage rises were announced there was a surge in auto teller installations in a couple of stores on my backwater high street – the minimum wage has to be high to reflect rip-off rents and house prices, hope the net increases in income do not disappear in increases in those otherwise it will be a pointless for many people.

    Business rates and employer national insurance need to go, replaced by a turnover tax on businesses (and rental income whilst we are at it), set at a rate that produces a bit more overall tax take. This is relatively simple to collect and rather hard to avoid plus would give an advantage to High Street stores that have lots of employees.

    We should not underestimate the effect on margins of a ruined currency, either, as there is little room in the market to up prices to reflect these increased costs. I

    I could name several other High Street names that are in trouble, just based on the lack of observed footfall except during sales – consumers have worked out it is better to bulk buy when there is 40-50 percent off. Small stores seem even worse off, many have closed whilst other continuously reinvent themselves looking for something that actually works.

    The other downside for the High Street is that you see all the same old names wherever you go so agree with the poster that we need lots of small businesses but for that to work lots of reform of tax needed.

    Troubled local authorities are going to be manic with all the disappearing rates, BTW.

  • Alisdair Gibbs-Barton 11th Jun '18 - 9:05am

    A much easier way is to increase the floor space, or rateable value, that councils can grant small business exemption to.

    My small business has many hurdles to get over … but among the greatest is that if I moved to larger premises I would start incurring business rates. It doesn’t give much incentive for a small business to expand, or for new businesses to take on small to medium premises.

    Local sales tax is a great idea in principle, but would be a bureaucratic nightmare to enforce or legislate. In border areas between local authorities businesses are likely to move to a more favourable area ..thus making the problem worse !

  • Graham Jeffs 11th Jun '18 - 10:02am

    I fear that many high streets won’t recover and we must carefully consider what other options there may be.

    Probably for the past 20 years the UK has been largely ‘over-shopped’ as often boring groups of shops have duplicated themselves across the country. Seldom can one visit a high street that is in any way unique. This may be an opportunity for some independents, but upwards-only rent reviews have done their cumulative damage.

    Surely we should be planning to use this redundant retails space for other purposes? It won’t be cheap, but that might be preferable to years of empty decaying properties.

  • Graham Jeffs 11th Jun ’18 – 10:02am……………I fear that many high streets won’t recover and we must carefully consider what other options there may be………….

    Agreed! The on-line genie is out of the bottle and, no matter how we tinker with rates, rents, etc., the high street cannot compete with low wage, low overheads, high turnover companies.
    First it was the VLS (very large shops) chain stores and supermarkets who put the small fishmonger, butcher, baker and greengrocer out of business and turned our high streets into ‘clones’; now they too are closing.

    Many high streets are a collection of ‘Poundlands’, charity shops and bookies and the exorbitant parking fees further dissuade visitors.
    THe only way our high streets can recover is if the shopping public ‘uses its feet rather than its fingers’ when shopping.

  • David Evershed 11th Jun '18 - 11:24am

    As Liberals who believe in free markets and competition we should not be deciding which businesses should be subsidised in order to produce a particular outcome.

    Businesses may decide to offer good value with a pile it high sell it cheap offer. Alternatively they may have a specialist offer with low volumes at premium prices.

    Regardless of the offer, businesses can choose through which channels to sell their goods and services (face to face; mail order; telephone; internet etc).

    Political parties should leave it to the market to decide which combination of offers and channels succeed.

    Of course there is a competition commission to examine any cases of market abuse. But the number of competitors is not an indicator of market abuse. Competitive rivalry means that even with just two competitors (eg Coca Cola versus Pepsi) competition can be fierce. Competition for loans between the major UK banks led to them lending too much money to high risk customers at interest rates which were too low. Conversely having very many small competitors can mean there is a weak competitive market, to the disadvantage of customers.

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '18 - 11:36am

    @ William Fowler,

    We don’t have “a ruined currency”. If the currency was worth, less our manufacturers would prefer to export rather than sell on the home market. German exporters, too, wouldn’t be interested in selling here. As we are able to buy from abroad, more than we sell abroad, does this indicate that our currency is too cheap?

    Arguments that a loaf of bread cost 6d in the fifties rarely mention that wages were far lower too. So how many minutes work did it take to earn that loaf at various times in our history? This is the question you need to be asking.

    @ David Thorpe,

    “the problem has become much worse since the increase in business rates introduced last year, the creation of the national living wage and the dent to consumer sentiment caused by the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.”

    You have a point with business rates. The level of wages, though, isn’t a factor. Workers are consumers too. If workers don’t get paid enough then they can’t afford to buy (either on the internet or in the High St) what they themselves have worked to create. Neither is Brexit. So far, Brexit has had no measurable effect on GDP.

  • David Becket 11th Jun '18 - 11:49am

    Start with the Planning Authorities. My archaic planning authority, where even Charity Shops are closing, is enabling more retail outlets to be built, they argue that the current shops are the wrong type of shop!!!
    Any free land in town centres should be transferred to housing, providing more potential shoppers living within walking distance.
    Then the Tax System, Business Rates must go, Land Value Taxation introduced and then we need a system whereby the shop is not at a disadvantage to the on line service, which is fuelling our traffic increase.
    Parking Charges are difficult, they form part of the local authority income which is already under pressure. Should parking be free? Should non car owners, who come into town by bus, subsidise the car driver? I think not. Encouraging shops to give a discount against a short term car parking would help, as would a land tax on out of town retail parking.

  • Independent shops may be popular in affluent market towns, places that are designated as “alternative” such as Hebden Bridge and Totnes, and largely ethnic areas, but I am afraid the ordinary voter wants more WH Smiths with self service checkouts everywhere. The market has spoken.

  • Level the playing field. Remove all business rates, replace it with a sales tax on turn over and exempt small business up to a turnover of say 250k. That way having a small store/pub/butchers makes sense, being Amazon or Wetherspoon’s isn’t so appealing any more.

  • “Agreed! The on-line genie is out of the bottle and, no matter how we tinker with rates, rents, etc., the high street cannot compete with low wage, low overheads, high turnover companies.” expats

    The genie was released from the bottle back in the 1980’s, when out-of-town retail started catching on; yet the traditional view of the high street persisted, so even now it is cheaper (business rates wise) to operate in a retail or business park. What this tells us is just how slow governments are to respond to change.

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '18 - 1:31pm

    @ Frankie,

    You may have picked up on arguments I have made that household economics don’t apply to currency issuing governments. But they do apply to local councils. They can’t just fund deficit spending in quite the same way!

    Business rates are an important part of their income. So, any proposal along the lines of “Remove all business rates, replace it with a sales tax on turn over and exempt small business up to a turnover of say 250k” needs to be properly costed and thought through!

    Would I be correct in thinking you haven’t actually done this?

  • Have i costed them Peter no, but the principle is simple. Work out how much business rates are, work out how high a business tax would need be to replace them and implement them. Now how you distributed the money could be fun, personally i’d favour alike for like but you could favour particular areas of deprivation if you wished. The plus side is you would help the small enterprise at the expense of the bigger guy. Personally I’d shed no tears if Amazon and their ilk had to pay up.

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '18 - 2:13pm

    @ frankie,

    I’d favour taxing companies like Amazon on their turnover rather than their profits, because they simply cannot be trusted to present proper accounts to HMRC. So you’d just need to work out how much profit Amazon made globally, work out what the UK share was on the basis of their turnover and give them a tax bill accordingly. We could add 5% for the inconvenience of having to do it that way! We are a nation state with all the ability to do that.

    But this would have to be done by Govt not local councils. At best it’s only a partial fix for the problem at hand.

  • Peter,

    At what point did I suggest the tax should be levied by councils. Neither did I suggest the tax should be on profit I’d prefer a tax on turnover and that includes anything sold to a UK customer, no matter where you booked the sale. For the sake of clarity I’d suggest

    1. An exception of x amount before the tax was levied. Like income tax as an business you get a allowance.
    2 Over the allowance you pay a percentage of your turn over.
    3. Business rates are abolished.
    4. Inland revenue enforce payment with punitive charges for evasion.
    5. Money raised is ring fenced for local government.

    If you set the business allowance high enough it may even encourage small shop keepers to return to our towns and cities replacing the boarded up shops we see to many of.

  • @Franke – your argument fails because of the changes currently working their way through the system, namely: local government will become responsible for the collection and distribution of business rates income. So fundamentally, in the coming years business rate income will more directly fund local services.

    The stage is thus being set for central government to blame local government for (unrealistically) high business rates…

    I suspect the way forward is for business rates to become a little like self-employed NI, everyone, above a very low threshold, pays a set fee regardless of level of trade and then pays a variable amount based on some formula. So a business running out of the spare room could be paying the same “business rate” as a factory employing 50 people.

  • Roland,

    It’s a change of taxation so I fail to see what relevance who collects a tax that would no longer exist has. As to blaming local government I take that as a given but the question is “How to prevent the decline of the high street”. Your suggestion of drop the business rates to practically nothing would help but how do you pay for it; my suggestion is make the likes of Amazon pay but what is yours?

  • Mick Taylor 11th Jun '18 - 3:54pm

    I am one of those who is causing the decline of the high street. I am a pensioner for whom value for money is very important and I don’t have a car. Hence using internet shopping is my ideal choice. I don’t have all that bother of going to big impersonal supermarkets out of town, but can order on line and get it delivered. As a bonus I don’t buy things that catch my eye in supermarkets because I’m not there and skip straight to pay without reading all the special offers on the supermarket internet sites.
    I do still use our local market, which has a lot of locally grown food, the whole food bakery and the corner shop, but I have little use for other local shops because they don’t usually have what I want.
    So unless high street shops up their game and cater for people like me, then they are doomed.
    Of course much of our local high street scene has a variety of restaurants and take-aways (mainly Pakistani and Bengali in my town) that I do use.
    Of course that other main stay of the high street, the local pub is also in serious decline. When I came here in 1972 there were well over 40 pubs and clubs in the town, now there are about 15. Those that serve good food are prospering, but ‘serious boozers’ are an endangered species.
    Quite honestly all this talk about tax is so much hot air. If there were lots of customers the tax would be affordable. The problem is that Joe and Jenny Public are voting with their feet and spending their cash elsewhere. That is the problem that need tackling!

  • ..Why is the government in this scenario picking winners and losers? Doesn’t sound like a liberal solution to me… and we’re required to have VAT by EU law if I remember correctly.

    Completely agree with David Evershed.

  • I’d favour taxing companies like Amazon on their turnover rather than their profits.

    But surely if you do that they will just pass the tax on to consumers by raising their prices, and then we all lose out.

  • Dav,

    Depends if you think Amazon is a good thing. A failure to pay taxes actually hurts you as the difference has to be made up either by cuts or taxing you more. By levelling the playing-field (and yes it does make Amazon more expensive) you give leeway for local businesses to flourish and personally I think that is a good thing.

    As to the assertion that Liberals believe in untrammelled free markets some may but many believe they need to be controlled as Keynes said ” Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”; personally I prefer that the most wicked of men (and women) are kept on a leash and that is what good governments do.

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '18 - 5:00pm

    @ Dav,

    “But surely if you do that they will just pass the tax on to consumers by raising their prices…”

    It would be effectively a tax on their profits. In the unlikely event that Amazon made a loss worldwide, there would be no tax to pay – just as now there would be locally little or no corporation tax to pay if Amazon genuinely had a bad year. Except when they return their accounts , we just don’t believe them when they tell us this.

    It’s quite straightforward to find out how well Amazon, and the other well known multinational tax dodgers, have done in their global operations. I’m not sure why our Govt finds it so difficult to extract any tax from them. If they feel they are being overtaxed they can simply sell up and move out!

  • Depends if you think Amazon is a good thing.

    I like cheap books.

    Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

    ‘It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.’

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '18 - 5:14pm

    @ Dav,

    Your “wickedest of things” quotation is from Keynes. He meant that it’s probably to our benefit that we put up with the likes of Amazon and Starbucks operating in our economy.

    I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that we allow them to just do as they please. Naturally if they can see a way to avoid paying Corporation tax they will do just that. More fool us for letting hem get away with it!

  • Its in no way a ‘living wage’, its just an increase in the minimum wage with a dishonest name, nothing more.

    Not sure what the solution is myself – but when my high street now consists almost entirely of charity shops and pound shops despite there being a university campus less than a mile up the road, and the once thriving indoor market has half its stalls shut because the landlord keeps putting the rates up – presumably because he’d rather empty stalls than any money at all, then that’s a serious problem. The rise in internet shopping isn’t the only cause of the high street decline.

    And David – a totally ‘free’ market as you understand it, which incidentally isn’t what the party believes in, tends to shaft absolutely everyone who isn’t at the top of it.

  • That’s David Evershed rather than Thorpe.

  • nvelope2003 11th Jun '18 - 9:32pm

    Whoever was responsible for paying the business rate it would still be the tenants and ultimately their customers who would actually be paying it.

  • Jayne mansfield 11th Jun '18 - 10:06pm

    Internet shopping is the new reality.

    Why do we think that high streets should be areas for shopping?

  • dave sheppard 11th Jun '18 - 11:40pm

    Jayne is correct.

  • The High Streets in nearly all of our settlements from market towns upwards, were for centuries at the centre of the commercial activity in the locality. It has been increasingly interfering councils since WW2 who have drained and taxed the life out of them, with the warped idea that somehow they could make it as difficult, inconvenient and expensive to visit the High Street area as possible , in some warped belief that they had a captive market to abuse and exploit in the naive belief they could do it for ever.

    Online shopping will be the death knell of the High Street, but councils of all complexions had already well and truly brought them to deaths door.

    As for all this blather about business rates being an integral part of council funding. That may well be the theory, but with High Streets increasingly having few shops that pay the full rates anyway, and shops closing weekly, I would suggest they are soon going to have to think of another cash cow to fill their coffers.

  • One of the key issues with tax policy is to consider the impact of changes across the whole system so as to avoid or mitigate unintended consequences.
    The Mirrlees Review set out ‘to identify reforms that would make the tax system more efficient, while raising roughly the same amount of revenue … and while redistributing resources … to roughly the same degree. Their ‘vision of a good tax system’ to achieve this objective includes a progressive income tax, exempting the ‘normal return to savings’, with a coherent rate structure, a single integrated transfer system for those with low incomes or high needs, a largely uniform value-added tax (VAT), with additional taxes on alcohol, tobacco and road congestion, a lifetime wealth transfer tax, and a single rate of corporation tax, exempting the ‘normal return on investment’.

    The Review was highly critical of the UK tax system, which it describes as ‘a jumble of tax rates, a lack of a coherent vision of the tax base, and arbitrary discrimination across different types of economic activities’ . The recommended ‘reform package’ for the UK includes:

    Merging personal income tax with social security contributions;
    Replacing income-tested transfers by a single integrated benefit;
    Exempting interest on bank and building society accounts, making a “rate-of-return allowance” for equities, business assets and rental property; and otherwise taxing capital income at the same rate as earned income; introducing an allowance for corporate equity into the corporation tax;
    Removing nearly all zero and reduced rates of VAT and introducing a tax on financial services equivalent to VAT;
    Introducing a tax on the current value of domestic property, and a land value tax for business, to replace existing council tax (on housing) and Stamp Duty, and business property tax.
    The evidence base for these tax reforms is impeccable and we would do well to base our own tax policy around the recommendations of the report.

  • JoeB is the only person in this discussion to touch on the issue of rents. The free market does not appear to operate with regard to commercial property. Most rent agreements are ‘upwards only’, although some of the large companies operating in our high streets have tried to force landlords to review their rents as a way of staying solvent. If the free market operated as it should then landlords would reduce the rent on shops to a level where an entrepreneur was prepared to take the risk of testing whether he or she had a viable business. This would breathe new life into the high streets and create a seedbed for future retail activity. The reason why landlords prefer to leave commercial property empty rather than to rent it at a lower price is probably because so much high street property is owned by pension and investment funds, and the supposed capital value of their property portfolio is of more importance in accounting terms than the income from that property. A reduction in rent would necessitate a write-down in the book value of the portfolio which might dent investors’ confidence.

  • William Fowler 12th Jun '18 - 7:37am

    The best model for small businesses – if the rates and council tax, capital gains etc are properly aligned – is surely live and work properties, which also has the effect of having more people living in town whereas it is often handed over to criminal types once the night descends.

  • Andrew Daer 12th Jun '18 - 7:59am

    Jenny Barnes – you ask “so what” if the High Streets disappear? Local shops are a necessary social hub, and provide jobs and small businesses. People don’t interact with (or even see) their neighbours when they sit flicking through images on their phones. In a shop the workers talk to customers; in a giant warehouse the workers are like semi-human robots chasing targets to avoid getting the sack. To make matters even worse, we subsidise the warehouse workers’ wages through taxes we pay, so that Amazon can pay lower wages and make more profit (which they choose not to pay tax on).
    Much has been said above about what the government can do with taxes, rates, etc. but the choice could actually be made by the 50 million adults in the UK who decide whether to shop online.

  • David Garlick 12th Jun '18 - 8:37am

    The answers is…. all in these comments. The right answer is more difficult to find and variations of any ‘right answer’ will need to be allowed for in any imposed solutions.
    Land Taxation for all is a way that has some appeal for me. Turnover Tax and company taxes paid in the country in which sales/profits are made does too.
    Solutions need to be determined in line with the vision of what we want our town high streets to be/do. I favour the creation of local/national Community funds to facilitate improvement and change.

  • Nononcormistradical 12th Jun '18 - 8:50am

    I second what Andrew Daer said – 12 June 7:59 am.

    The High Street is an important focus of a community – if it ceases to exist then that aids the decline of the community, the decline in people looking out for one another, the increase in selfish behaviour, the increase in inequality.

    I suspect one major factor is carrying out an economic policy without taking any account of its social consequences – only the truly powerful and selfish benefit in the long run.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Jun '18 - 9:43am

    David Thorpe: Shall we recall the decision of Tesco HQ to end their policy of building multiple large stores in the same area to try to create local monopolies? Large companies such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer are still creating small, local stores.
    The job losses feared are in “High Street” stores, but more jobs are being created for warehouse staff and small delivery vans, reducing the need for pantechnicons the size of furniture vans delivering small loads to stores with inadequate access or parking.

  • Ruth Coleman-Taylor 12th Jun '18 - 11:27am

    One of the reasons for the proliferation of charity shops in the High Street is their entitlement to 80% Business Rate Relief: the Council has discretion to increase that to 100% relief which makes quite a difference to the costs of occupying a High Street site. But Councils have further discretion to reduce the Business Rate under a number of different Acts and this could be used to encourage and assist particular businesses and to influence occupation of the High Street.

    When I was Council Leader in Liberal Democrat North Wiltshire (a Council that no longer exists!), we developed a policy to enhance the ‘vitality and viability of our town centres’ which included reducing business rates for a range of small enterprises that we wanted to encourage in order to benefit our local taxpayers, both shoppers and traders. One of the factors was how many of that type of business operated in that area: we also offered rate relief if they were the sole business of the type or one of only two so that we could retain a desirable diversity of shops.

    Additionally, as I recall, the cost of the rate relief largely fell on the Government, not on the Council!

  • Perhaps business rates should be based on profit so the less profitable have lower or no business rates at least for a period. But market pressures means there will always be departures from our High Streets. I think local authorities could be more empowered to intervene in their local retail sector. A bit like a local authority business strategy.

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Jun '18 - 12:44pm

    Jenny Barnes is right. Let nature take its course. The talk of “the focus of the community and must be preserved” is just King Canute stuff and a nostalgic attempt to recreate some idyll of townsfolk warmly greeting each other whilst they visit one shop to buy a carrot, another to buy a sausage and a third to buy a loaf. Out of town hypermarkets are vastly more convenient and does anyone foresee on line shopping actually going into reverse?
    Small town shops have themselves to blame. They refused to open until I had gone to work and closed before I got home. I was thrown out of my local bookshop at 16:55 once with the words “We close in 5 minutes!”. It’s gone now, of course.
    No amount of taxpayers, or ratepayers cash, can keep a retail model going that is no longer wanted by the customers. Those who think that this is somehow a “bad thing” should just join a social club if they want company. Town centres need to adapt and evolve to meet changing tastes rather than demand to remain as some form of open air museum.

  • Phil Wainewright 12th Jun '18 - 2:25pm

    Anyone who believes online shopping has killed High Street retail obviously hasn’t visited an Apple store recently.

    Retailers do have to adapt and make themselves more appealing for shoppers to visit in person, but if they get the right mix of online engagement and in-person service they can be very successful. I do agree with other commenters that enterprising businesses that want to make this transition need more support from councils and landlords to give them breathing space to do so.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Jun '18 - 2:38pm

    Barnaby. Councils do not set business rates, the government does. The council simply collect them as the government’s agent. So if they are killing the high street, then it’s the government and not councils who are responsible.
    However it is quite right that businesses should pay for the services they receive like roads, lighting, education of their workforce, refuse collection and so on, all provided by their local councils. Next you’ll be telling us that business taxation is wicked and causes unemployment!

  • Small town shops have themselves to blame. They refused to open until I had gone to work and closed before I got home

    I once tried to get a key cut on Saturday afternoon in a local key-cuttery which had the absolute gall to have a ‘support local businesses!’ sign up right next to the ‘opening hours’ sign where they said they closed at noon on Saturdays.

    I mean, seriously.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Jun '18 - 4:36pm

    A satirical show on Radio 4 put the question “What happens when a Pound-shop finds a 99p-shop has opened next door? They were not watching The Apprentice (UK with Alan Sugar) who suggested that the competing teams of would-be apprentices put famous brands in their windows reduced to dramatically low prices and unbranded goods in-store offered at profitable prices.
    I walked all round a pound-shop in Croydon and found very little that I wanted to buy in terms of value on price, quality and size, except for things which have well known prices, milk and the “I” newspaper.

  • ………………….Small town shops have themselves to blame. They refused to open until I had gone to work and closed before I got home. I was thrown out of my local bookshop at 16:55 once with the words “We close in 5 minutes!”. It’s gone now, of course…………………………….I once tried to get a key cut on Saturday afternoon in a local key-cuttery which had the absolute gall to have a ‘support local businesses!’ sign up right next to the ‘opening hours’ sign where they said they closed at noon on Saturdays…………….

    How dare they want to have lives of their own. I just love the idea that having the gall to want to close at 5pm or have a half day off on a saturday makes them unfit to run a small business. As for being ‘thrown out’, I didn’t realise that there were ‘Bookshop Bouncers’ but I suppose it’s a job. And, regarding the key, why not try saturday morning or were you having a ‘lie in’?

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Jun '18 - 10:35pm

    What are you suggesting expats? We ought to be prepared to take a day’s leave to buy a book? That shopkeepers have a right to a 9 to 5 lifestyle and their customers will just have to fit around it?

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Jun ’18 – 10:35pm………………What are you suggesting expats? We ought to be prepared to take a day’s leave to buy a book? That shopkeepers have a right to a 9 to 5 lifestyle and their customers will just have to fit around it?……….

    Don’t you have weekends where you live. Strange how, until the Thatcher era, we managed without 24 hour shopping.
    I’ve been retired for 20 years but, when I was working, I had no trouble managing with lunchtime/week end shopping. My saturdays often consisted of early morning golf and afternoons accompanying my wife around the ‘delights’ of Bournemouth/Boscombe shoe/clothes shops. Sundays were family days and I’m old fashioned enough to believe that such days should apply to those in the retail trade. After all, a midweek day off in lieu of a sunday, isn’t much use if you have children.

  • Innocent Bystander 13th Jun '18 - 9:28am

    Thank you expats but you do demonstrate the tug of nostalgia. Meanwhile the world moves relentlessly on.
    Fewer and fewer are prepared to waste their weekends wandering around shoe shops, and if that’s your pleasure fine but I’ve not the slightest interest in giving up the things I enjoy for that.
    The retail trade (with the way they are responding to the march of time) need have no worries about having Sunday off. They soon will have all seven.
    There is another movement (equally doomed) to prop up tired old pubs. Most seem deserted while coffee shops spring up everywhere and are full of chattering people.

    The talk of altering business taxes is the usual nonsense. Business taxes aren’t paid by businesses. They are paid by the customers and any party that wants to tax us consumers out of the convenience of hypermarkets and internet shopping has found another sure fire way to lose voters.

    The “Save the High Street” campaign has no point nor does it have the slightest chance of success anymore than you or I, expats, have the option of becoming 25 years old again.

  • @Innocent Bystander – We ought to be prepared to take a day’s leave to buy a book? That shopkeepers have a right to a 9 to 5 lifestyle and their customers will just have to fit around it?

    Sounds a lot like how it was when I was growing up, although I seem to remember that many shops closed at 5:30, os if you were quick you could make a simple purchase, nowhere open on Sunday, most shops had a half-day closing on Thursday and as for the banks. Then I moved to Milton Keynes and the shopping centre was open 9 – 8 five days a week and 9 – 5 on Saturdays and a little later the banks introduced extended hours – opening on Saturday mornings!

  • Innocent Bystander: Many people need to try on shoes, clothes etc. It is easier to go to a shop than have to keep sending things back if the shop is reasonably nearand you can see what is available. Councils have ruined the chances of the shops by excessive parking charges and rates but I hear one council has bought 2 shops and the leader is now standing down – one of the shops was Marks & Spencer. Oh dear !

  • My saturdays often consisted of early morning golf and afternoons accompanying my wife around the ‘delights’ of Bournemouth/Boscombe shoe/clothes shops

    As long as you weren’t trying to get any keys cut while your wife was trying on shoes, then, as you would have found the same locked door I did.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Jun '18 - 11:08am

    “Many people need to try on shoes, clothes etc. It is easier to go to a shop than have to keep sending things back if the shop is reasonably nearand you can see what is available.”

    Quite. I do wonder what percentage of stuff bought via online shopping does get returned….

  • Nonconformistradical: A great deal of stuff purchased online gets returned. Road congestion has increased partly due to the big increase in delivery vans and parcels trucks.
    In my small town there are some shops which have been empty for years. They have residential accommodation upstairs and it is time those shops were converted to that purpose but the council seems reluctant to allow it.
    Peter Watson: I have looked at things in the shops before buying them online but they were mostly the same price, however they were delivered to my home which helps as I do not have transport.

    Maybe there are just too many shops. Pound shops have been closing down for some years – maybe inflation does not help and people prefer to have different experiences than filling their homes with things they do not really need.

  • “I fear that if the High Street is dying then it is shoppers who are putting the knife in, and I don’t see an easy solution.” Peter Watson

    I think the stage has been set by several players, specifically commercial property owners and government.

    As has being pointed out, since circa the mid 1970’s the norm in the UK has been the upwards only rent review, over which we have seen in recent years the bigger retail chains pushing back on, however, they may have reached an agreement for their stores, they haven’t changed the cultural norm, so no change here.

    Likewise, we have seen government regard the traditional high st. as prime property and so treated it and the businesses that occupy it as cash cows.

    Hence given these forces and the increasing use of cars and thus mobility, businesses themselves have naturally migrated away from the high st, to out-of-town locations, tempting shoppers away from the high st…. Likewise, we’ve seen supermarkets diversify into books, clothes, etc. Into this mix enter the Internet and the changes it brings to business and the cost of interacting with shoppers which naturally feed through to the prices shoppers pay for goods. So shoppers have followed their nose’s and got themselves better prices.

    I thus don’t believe it is just the shoppers putting in the knife, they are just the visible link in the money-go-round.

    Thus the stage is really being set for a transformation in the way we view the “High St.”, namely, it isn’t just about retail, its about people aka footfall/visitors. I think Ruth Coleman-Taylor with her council’s ‘vitality and viability’ enhancing policy is a step in the right direction, treating the high st. more of a community asset that needs to be used.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Jun '18 - 6:51pm

    When I look at the actual High Street in the nearest town it is obvious that most of the shops and restaurants are in properties that were built as residential. Businesses campaign to prevent empty business properties being converted into residential. While many councils have numerous Grenfell-like properties they may need to demolish a homelessness charity estimates that the country needs 105,000 new homes per year.

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