Keeping Our High Street Alive
I love shops. I love shopping. Always have. Some of my best memories have been made in shops. Many long term friendships have blossomed by going shopping together, it's an all round experience, and one which I personally would be sad if I couldn't engage in anymore.
With local high streets already in decline, 2020 has been the final set-back on a long and difficult road for some businesses. Taking a walk along my local high street I pass so many empty and abandoned looking store fronts, some with 'To Let' signs outside and others just simply sitting empty. It certainly is a sorry sight, and makes me wonder what the future is for these places and the remaining businesses clinging on. Once shops were finally allowed to reopen in July, I wanted to try to give something back to my high street...
The opportunity came along when I teamed up with a fellow wedding supplier and planner, who also happens to be a member of my local council; together we approached local businesses and offered them a free mini photo shoot, to enable them to use the images to market their business online and on social media.
We all know how important professional looking photos are for your online presence, and it can really make a huge difference when potential customers are searching for new products and services. Professional photos usually mean that a business has put time, money and effort into their marketing, which assures us that they must care about their business and subsequently their customers.
We got to meet so many interesting people from a variety of different industries: including cafes, hairdressers, beauticians and even a funeral directors. Everyone was more than happy for us to come on in and take a few minutes out of their day for some photographs. All along the high street we heard very similar stories from business owners and staff that times had been extremely difficult and the future for them was unclear.
I wonder if we may somewhat take the presence of high street shops for granted.
If they eventually disappeared, what would our shopping experiences be like? Would we miss stores not being there as an option? High street retailers offer us an all round personal shopping experience, they're good for items that are needed immediately, and have the benefit of no additional delivery costs. Perhaps I'm old school, but I like to be able to hold an item in my hands, feel the texture, the weight, size, shape - there's no real substitute for physically seeing an item before you purchase it. I'm pretty sure a lot of fellow online shoppers have wasted money having purchased an item that turns out to be poor quality or a bad fit, only to have to pay for the return postage too!
So what is the future for the empty shops I pass by on my high street? With ever increasing need for homes, a simple quick-fix option would be to convert these retail properties into centralised flats, social housing or retirement homes. But there are alternatives, a different route (and probably the more challenging one) would be to support business owners in marketing online and to transform themselves, and subsequently our high streets, into more of a 'social experience'. To bring custom back to the high street businesses need to get creative; customers need a diverse mixture of leisure activities, interesting cafes and eateries, bespoke items and homemade products. If businesses can be supported in keeping up with trends and can adapt to an ever changing environment, then the high street may well be able to thrive again as a central hub for the community.