The demise of the High Street is a British thing (not Brexit though!). The pursuit of cheap food, the rise of Ultra Processed Food and the urban sprawl of rabbit hutch housing has led us away from community based shops. Business rates are too high and the artisan bakers and butchers, et.c have disappeared. Now we are seeing the big chains also disappearing with Wilco following Debnams and Arcadia, M&S and John Lewis have also closed some of their ‘flagship stores’. Replacements are charity stores, vaping shops, tattoo parlours anf betting shops. Thus there is little incentive for the bespoke craft shop or cafe. Parking costs rise as councils desperately try to balance the books. Town centres where attempts to make pedestrian throughfares are now wind swept alien areas populated by groups of youths (which can be intimidating when they are the majority!) and beggars with cannabis and vape smoke wafting through the dystopian landscape.
Dame Sharon White, boss of John Lewis, has called for a Royal Commission to investigate the problem but is it too late? Probably 50 or 60 years too late! The pursuit of money and its partner bargains, has seen the homogenisation of high streets (or had until the familiar names disappeared). Chain stores ruled the roost – they could afford the refit for their anodyne stores and afford the rents as they pay their staff up to store manager level very low wages. How many towns in England could name more than an isolated example of a locally owned shop or cafe? And where they exist they are often in hidden back roads away from the town centre. I am not well travelled but from my limited experience Totnes, Devon; Wells, Somerset; come to mind. Does the Lewes,East Sussex of my 20’s still have a greengrocers, a shop called “Full of beans” and other independant traders.