The Great British High Street as we knew it is a thing of the past and this is due to the most basic law of life, gravity.
Gravity is the force of nature holds the universe together, holds you and me together and holds everything in its right place.
Gravity works by mass attracting mass, and big masses attract smaller masses.
The Great British High Street has lost significant mass over recent decades and the consequence of it gradually losing mass is that smaller masses are less attracted to it. Over time this process has been gradual, but it is speeding up and hence the greater attention it is given.
Today The Great British High Street as we knew it twenty, thirty, forty years ago is no more and that is primarily for one reason, there are now less reasons to visit.
If we look at why this is there are several causes, the first and most fundamental being consumer choice, people choose to spend their time differently as there are far more ways of spending their time in 2019 than there were in 1999, or 2009, or 1989.
Change: The past twenty years has seen the world change and change is accelerating, whether we like to recognise this fact or not, it has, and it continues to, ever faster.
Ostriches: High street landlords and local authorities choose to increase rents and rates on The Great British High Street.
In any economic equation that works, lower demand cannot be countered by higher prices to try and break even. If sales of a product are going down due to lower consumer demand, doing nothing other than increasing the price of the product can’t work.
Consumer Choice: Consumers will choose to buy the products and services that they need and want. Needs are open to less choice than wants and this points to another reason for the decline of the high street, there are less ‘need to’ reasons to visit the high street, so fewer consumers do.
In time past the number one reason to go to the high street was to visit the bank. You needed to pay in, draw out or do something with your money. For most people in 2019 that is not something you need to do, you do it online and you probably have done for some time now. So, in the past three years alone we have seen almost 3,000 banks located on high streets close.
The ‘need to’ reasons to visit the high street are diminishing and the ‘want to’ reasons are seeing the effects, less footfall.
The mass of the high street as it reduces attracts less smaller masses.
Back to the ostriches, high street landlords and local authorities in reaction to holding a less attractive asset, choose to try and impose rents and rates that are based on the high streets of times past. If fewer consumers are visiting their attractions what makes them think they can charge more to businesses that want to stay or locate there?
The incumbent of the high street would seem to be easier pickings so increasing rent and rates on businesses that are ‘reliant’ on their high street location is one tactic that has been deployed. We know of many restaurants that are struggling through this process and only outcomes possible are they will move elsewhere or be forced out of business.
The high street landlord and local authority may be able to replace the tenant but the overall space on the high street has remained the same, it is standing still and not growing.
This process is effecting long standing icons of the high street at local and national levels. Destination restaurants that have been a local landmark drawing in consumers for their neighbouring businesses are closing as are national household names.
As with many other major changes in society the pattern of change is recognised as it progresses, the progression accelerates, and the predicted outcome materialises.
High street rents and rates need to reduce to attract new customers, restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars and others. High streets need to add mass to address the problem and more ‘want to’ is the only solution.
Hospitality on the high street enabling visitors to have a ‘want to’ experience is key to high street landlords and local authorities; they should be doing more to attract more hospitality businesses locate on a high street.
Time is ticking for The Great British High Street; it will need to embrace innovation and provide consumers with more ‘want to’ reasons to visit. High street landlords and local authorities will have to embrace this change and reduce the cost of stay and entry to The Great British High Street.
If the mass of The Great British High Street continues to diminish so will the mass of consumers drawn to it, it’s gravity. Will high street landlords and local authorities recognise that they need to action change? Or will they try and defy gravity?
At this time, we are unable to provide high street landlords and local authorities with any help in sourcing examples of gravity being defied.