The UK high street is the name usually applied to the stretch or area of shops in various towns and villages around the UK. It is a common name with there being upwards of 3000 roads in the UK that are referred to as the High Street, with another 2,500 having a variation of this name, for instance the Upper High Street or the High Street West. In the majority of places that have a high street, it is their main place to get groceries from a big supermarket, to go shopping or to go for lunch. The name has a long history, it originated all the way back in the 12th Century. Back then the word high was used in a different way, it was used to indicate when someone or something was of a higher importance or had a more important status. Most of these streets would have originally had a local name but in time High Street became the widespread option. The high streets in the UK have survived a long time by evolving with societies needs, for example sleigh bed designs are popular so furniture shops would start to stock sleigh beds. However, in recent years the high streets have started to struggle, we’ll delve into why and if 2022 is going to be the year that they manage to bounce back.
Did the pandemic affect the UK high street?
The coronavirus pandemic became known to the world late 2019 when the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, got placed into a strict lockdown. Although the Chinese government tried to prevent the spread of the virus with these actions, the world watched as the virus spread worldwide until it became a global health issue. Governments worldwide all had to take action to try and protect their citizens from being exposed to this deadly virus, millions of lives were lost worldwide and without the implementation of lockdowns the death toll would have been much higher. Whilst the lockdown was completely necessary as it was the only way to save lives, as a side effect many issues arose. One of these was that under the lockdown rules people on the UK could only leave the house for essential reasons and high street shops were forced to close. This led to many small businesses not being able to pay rent and having to close for good, this was also the case for many local pubs that were treasured in the local communities. The pandemic played a huge part in the decline of the high street, but it was starting to go sour before this.
What else caused the decline of the high street?
As much as the shops on the high street try their hardest to keep up with current trends and to stay relevant, it is impossible to keep up with online shopping. The introduction of online shopping changed the way people shop and changed what consumers expect. Many shops on the high street have opening hours of 9-5, this is impossible to compete with the internet where you can purchase anything you want at any time of the day. This was only worsened by companies such as Amazon offering next day delivery, many people were facing the choice of leave work early and rush to the high street in the hope of finding what you need, or go home and find what you need from the comfort of your bed and have it arrive at your house the next day. Online shopping is much more convenient so it also played a big part in why the high street was beginning to fail. On top of this, with the increase over the years in the price of rent, many businesses didn’t see it worth renting out big buildings anymore of many small businesses were unable to afford the increase.
Will the High Street make a comeback in 2022?
Now that such a high percentage of adults in the UK are fully vaccinated, the world is beginning to operate as normal again. This means that logistically there is potential for the high street to bounce back as shops will be able to operate at normal capacity again and people will be back to going to the high street as something to do on their weekends. The lockdown also helped people to realize how important local communities are, this has led to many people making more of an active effort to support their local businesses. This means that people are trying to shop local as much as they can rather than ordering online. However, online is still more convenient so it’s hard to say at this point whether the high streets will fully bounce back.