Here's how we take this one-time opportunity to save the high street - Kevin Buckle

The shops in England and Wales opened this week and while the media focused on finding busy streets and packed shopping centres the truth of the matter was a little different, with analysts saying that footfall was as much as 23 per cent down from two years ago.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 7:00 am
Shoppers queue outside a Primark store in Stoke-on-Trent this week

This really was no surprise to anybody actually in retail as opposed to the many “retail experts”. Undoubtedly there were shops expecting an initial burst of business and in some cases that is what happened but in city centres in particular the footfall generated by those working in the centre is still very much lost.

There was also very little mention of shops that didn’t reopen even though still trading, and of course there was an even bigger gap left on the high street by those shops that have closed for good during the last lockdown.

Hospitality faces very obvious challenges trying to operate with only a limited capacity but for shops in general they too are trying to turn a profit while only having a fraction of the custom they used to have because of reduced footfall.

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There is of course a big difference between knowing that a rush to spending on the high street is not going to happen as predicted and actually knowing what will happen. There are high street recovery plans all over the UK and different city and town centres will face different challenges but people’s spending habits are fairly uniform and it is there that decisions need to be made about whether something can be done.

The high street is too often given up on even by those supposedly charged with its recovery and there can be no better example of how there is still time for an unlikely comeback than the revival of vinyl.

The industry itself had virtually given up on the format when it became clear that its fortunes could possibly be turned around. For record companies people downloading albums was just the best thing ever. There was no manufacturing costs and no distribution costs so very much a win-win.

However gradually it became clear there was something unsatisfactory about downloading in some people’s minds. CDs certainly are more convenient to play but an LP and importantly its sleeve is a far more tangible object.

There is a one-time opportunity now to convince young and old alike who have all been forced to stay in that actually going out and buying things is a far more enjoyable experience than internet shopping.

Just as with vinyl, if the kids can be convinced that going out with their friends shopping is the “cool” thing to do and older folk can be made nostalgic for the pleasure they had shopping in their youth then there is very much a future for the high street.

The truth is shopping on the high street is far more enjoyable than looking at a screen and playing vinyl is more satisfying than downloading. Shop on the high street for vinyl and you’ll reach Nirvana.