When homebuyers (and renters) are looking for a desirable place to live, there’s one thing that’s often at the top of their wish lists – close proximity to a thriving local high street. The high street is often a focal point of the local community, a place where people get together, enjoy and take pride in what makes their neighbourhood unique, and find shopping, entertainment and great food practically on their doorsteps. The online giants just can’t compete with the unique personality a thriving high street provides a community – but it can’t be left to the high street retailers to protect this valuable asset on their own.
For a local high street to thrive, not just survive, everyone in the community needs to come together to show their appreciation for these community hubs, and become stakeholders in ‘project high street’ – and the good news is, it’s not as hard as it may sound.
For example, landlords already have a clear vested interest in preserving the high street. No shops and cafes? No paying tenants! Landlords may sometimes have to rent their properties at less than premium prices just to keep the high street busy and bustling, but this will pay off in the long-term as more retailers want in on a popular shopping destination.
The local authorities have a similar interest – without a thriving high street, what will attract visitors to the town and give the neighbourhood a reputation as a great place to live and visit? Providing resources and education to high street retailers when needed will help spur more investment in the high street, breeding the confidence retailers need to take a risk to enter the High street and grow their businesses.
Of course, retailers have a huge role to play – they need to make sure their offerings are well-suited to the local community, always adapting and changing with new trends, and either price-competitive with the online giants or adding more value to what they offer. If possible, they should aim to match the generous return policies of online retailers. They also need to offer something more – personalised service, product expertise, and tactful but honest advice for their clientele, something that no computer algorithm could ever supply.
The local press also has a role to play. By seeking out and putting the spotlight on high street businesses that are doing things new, different, or just really well, they can encourage locals to give the high street another chance, and contribute to a thriving local economy by doing so. Thinking with a longer-term vision, not jumping on a negative bandwagon just for headlines. Yes holding people accountable if needed, but understanding how promoting the many exciting changes that are happening in their local area will help stimulate new and adventurous entrepreneurs to enter the local marketplace.
Finally, it’s up to individuals within each community to understand that a thriving high street is valuable. Products thrown onto your doorstep in a shipping box will never come with the same thrill as a beautiful item you discover in a local store, select in the perfect size with the help of an experienced retailer, and don’t have to pack up and return because the picture on the internet didn’t match what you actually received.
It’s up to everyone in the community to keep the high street thriving – and it benefits everyone in the community when it does. By taking the long view instead of chasing online ‘bargains,’ every stakeholder in a thriving high street benefits – the retailers, the landlords, the local authorities, the local press, and especially the local consumer (who may also be a local homeowner.)
Keeping the high street alive and well is good for everybody in the community, and it should be the responsibility of everyone in the community. The good news is, it’s hardly an onerous responsibility – who doesn’t want a perfect excuse to go shopping?