To take the example of my city centre; a large hotel recently opened with space on its ground floor for six new shop units. Yet a similar number across the road have remained unfilled since they were built five years ago. A large shop purpose built for Zavvi has never been filled since that business closed. There is currently a large project involving a former department store whose ground floor is to be broken up into- you guessed it- more shop units. An even larger project plans to construct dozens more shops. It is doubtful whether many of these units will be filled so why do people keep constructing them?
Builders and planners need to start considering what is going to occupy high streets and city centres in the future. Whichever way you look at it, there will not be the need for as many shop units from now on unless Tesco, Home Bargains and Costa decide to have a unit every three or four shops (I suppose you can’t rule that out!). The reasons for the decline of shops are multifold- increased use of online shopping, cheaper supermarket brands, the ongoing austerity- but the result is always the same. Empty shops. There is some scope for more food shops as the number of people living in city centres increases but there are not that many food chains left apart from the big five supermarkets.
|A typical 2013 high street
Predictions and science fiction of the past often painted the future as super crowded, needing monorails towering over the pavements because of the volume of people and the huge number of shops. It would be sensible now for us to consider the opposite; that city centres and high streets will become less frenetic and yet more appealing places to visit.