THE FUTURE OF THE HIGH STREET
The future of the high street: It’s not just about shopping
We’ve all seen it in the films, the idyllic mid- 20th century image of Main Street America where cars park in front of busy stores brim full of happy customers. Transport yourself to the modern day and that image simply doesn’t exist. America shops out of town and the letters CBD – or central business district – dominate in each and every town or city. Retail has moved out – literally – to huge shopping centres and malls out of town and the centre has become a place to work and buy the occasional coffee. When the offices shut, everything does. Gone are the cars parked at jaunty angles on Main Street and the constant buzz of activity and life. That image is something that David Jones, managing director of planning consultants, Evans Jones is desperate to avoid happening on this side of the Atlantic ocean. “Unless we are careful, that could be what comes next,” he said. “That American model is something that I am especially keen to avoid happening here. “But ask me what the high street of the future will look like here in 20 or 30 years and I have to say it’s difficult to answer. “So much will change because our lives will change. Will travel be completely different to now because of the lack of fossil fuels?
“Are current opening hours fit for purpose? “In a world where most couples work, is it really sustainable for retail opening hours to be aligned with normal working hours? “A cultural change is required to encourage people to use town centres for more than bars and restaurants during the evening hours.
“Will we be travelling less and therefore going back to local centres to do our shopping? It’s difficult to predict and the only certainty is that there will be change.” For that change to be a success, Mr Jones is similarly certain that there has to be a wider, holistic view to what happens. “The high street can’t just be about retail, that’s for certain,” he said. “If you get the other bits right, retail will follow. “High streets will get smaller and shrink into a central core and they will have to operate in a similar way to how outlet villages and large retail centres like Westfield, Bicester, Swindon Designer Outlet or Gloucester Quays operate. “The Quays is a great example in that there is an
80 | December 2019 | www. punchline-gloucester .com
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