Well the weather’s really perked up and the cafes are buzzing with tables all over the pavements – it looks quite continental here in SuA. Carol’s just finishing off her last day’s work this week then he plan is to pop down to a riverside pub and have a glass or two of something cool and refreshing for the first time in almost a year – assuming of course we can get onto the licensed patio space without having to sign my soul away to Matt Hancock. It’s great to see our towns opening up and coming to life again eh!
Except for one striking thing. The lockdown caused most retail outlets to close unless they were selling essential goods of course. All those closed up shop windows masked a sad truth of course. Now that all the non-essential shops have opened up the one ones that are still closed are the businesses that have gone bust. And you forget just how many had gone under in the last year or so. The main streets here in Stratford have quite a few dark retail sales previously occupied by some big brands – the large Debenhams store right in the centre is dark, as is the Clintons card shop, the Laura Ashley store, the huge Bhs store, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Hotters, a lovely Jaeger store, and several more. It brings it home seeing the life being restored to other outlets. And I’m sure that loads more businesses are just hanging on to life by their fingernails. This just reflects the changing way we are purchasing items – the vast majority now online. Why traipse up to the high st or spend time and money looking for a parking space and let’s face it put yourself at some risk by mixing closely with people? When you can go online, order what you want and have stuff delivered direct to your door, relatively safely. With a very east return procedure. We all live in a world dominated by the likes of Amazon, Just Eat and Ocado now rather sadly. This pic, taken just a few years ago, contains few shops still there and doing business…
Let’s just hope the recovery continues and some new businesses pop up to fill these hauntingly empty retail spaces. I wouldn’t complain if they became eateries and restaurants, pop up food bars and the like. I strongly believe that a town with lots of eating places has a great chance of attracting people (residents and visitors) to spend money. Because it offers a buzz and a chance to socialise – something which we all now realise is critical to our mental well-being. But buying goods in stores paying huge amounts in rents and rates is just a broken business model now. Small and flexible and highly customer/service focused is the way forward methinks