COMMENTING on the decline in traditional high street shopping, your leading article (“Retail landscape changed forever”, 16 March) concludes: “It’s not simply a question of waiting until household incomes improve or the upturn broadens out. This is a structural upheaval that marks a permanent shift in the way that we use our town centres. As such, it will require major changes on the part of both retailers and local authorities.”
Entirely correct – but what “major changes” are required – and in which direction does it mark “a permanent shift”? Not a clue!
The vital point that is being overlooked is that the human species is naturally gregarious, therefore a town centre is essentially a social hub. So unless a town centre’s vitality as the heart of the community is restored its prosperity as a focus for shopping cannot be revived.
The slump in retailing is not, as generally assumed, the cause of the “death of the high street”, but is the consequence of the death of the town centre as a social hub.
Shopping must be revitalised as a leisure activity, an entertainment, as it was before the supermarket and the internet reduced it to antisocial drudgery. The buzz has to be brought back.
This fits perfectly with the huge growth in popular demand for fresh foods, particularly local produce. Hence the worldwide development of professionally managed food market halls, providing conviviality and excitement, colour and variety – and often in conjunction with other community facilities.
Planners and investors, please note!