There are plenty of people who complain about the composition of our high streets, but as shoppers we reap what we sow.
News that Mike Ashley has launched a new discount store in the Midlands should come as little surprise. That it should promise to “beat anyone’s price” should also raise few eyebrows because that’s the way our high streets are headed.
Everybody likes a bargain, or at least that’s what discount operators are banking on, and shops brimful of stock crammed onto shelves as part of indifferent stores environments are increasingly what visitors to high street UK should expect.
Couple this with charity shops and the effect is one of reach-me-down glamour. Everything can be bought for a knock-down price, just don’t bank on feeling great about where you are shopping, as for the most part this is not part of the equation.
So here’s the trade off. How far are the British public prepared to go in search of a bargain and does it mean in-your-face logos that shout price at every turn? Maybe so and if it is, what happens to the rest of retail?
Enthusiasm for a bargain
For an answer look no further than your nearest regional shopping centre. The car parks of these places are always busy and at the weekend there’s usually a queue to get in. Money has been thrown at these locations by developers and consumers flock to them because they offer a quality shopping experience.
And when they are done in the malls, it’s back to the high street where the bargains will be there for the taking.
The problem with this is one of uniformity. The idea of high streets looking more or less the same whether you’re in Ipswich or Inverness is one that has been around for years. Nothing has changed; it’s just that the composition of those filling its units has altered.
“If money-off is the order of the day, then the seeds of high street uniformity were sown years ago”
And while there will be plenty who feel inclined to moan about a status quo that shows little prospect of shifting, it is the British consumer’s enthusiasm for cheap stuff that has brought this about. Retail is generally a response to a prevailing mindset – that’s the way it has to be. So if money-off is the order of the day, then the seeds of high street uniformity were sown years ago.
The obvious question in all of this is whether it is what we want. There are plenty who will say it is not, but with a discount mentality being at the heart of shopping in this country, then things are not set to change any time soon.