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What will happen to our towns if we all shop online?

(139 Posts)
Kali2 Thu 13-Jan-22 20:25:48

This is not meant to criticise those who choose to shop on line, And I totally get that Covid has encouraged so many more to do so.

But what then? Shops are closing, pubs are closing, independent cafés and restaurants are replaced by chains. Charity shops multiply.

Are we truly happy, or at least unconcerned- that our town centres are slowly dying? One of the things we love about our lovely market town, is the independent shops and cafés, the ironmongers, the butchers and fish shop, fruit and veg. Covid has been a disaster- if we don't return in person- that will be the final nail in their coffin.

And I for one will misss them for sure. Won't you?

SueDonim Thu 13-Jan-22 20:35:45

My small town has had a bit of a resurgence since Covid, with more shops opening. We’ve only one chain, WHS, the rest are all independents.

The nearest city isn’t so good, especially since JLP pulled out. We haven’t been into the city since before Xmas and I can’t think of anything I’d go in for unless I needed knickers from M&S.

MissAdventure Thu 13-Jan-22 20:38:50

Shops need to cater to the customers' needs.
I spent weeks trying to find bags for my henry vacuum.
Went online and found exactly what was needed, which was delivered within 2 days, and cost pennies.

JaneJudge Thu 13-Jan-22 20:39:29

They become service towns from my experience. Hairdressers, nails, beauticians, barbers, cafes, pubs, restaurants. All the other shops close down and Independents struggle to pay the business rates

janeainsworth Thu 13-Jan-22 20:47:50

Online shopping is probably a very minor cause of the changes in town centres. Most businesses have an online presence as well as physical premises.
The decline began years ago with the advent of out of town shopping centres, and supermarkets like Tesco expanding from their core business of groceries & into hardware, clothing, housewares etc.
Business rates are another factor. Councils don’t want to put up their council tax to residents so milk businesses instead.

Town centres will evolve. They always have. If they become destinations for people to go to restaurants, visit historic sites, museums & galleries, & patronising small businesses rather than buying their meat, bread & fruit & veg there, does it really matter?

saltnshake Thu 13-Jan-22 20:51:58

I try to shop locally but local councils are making it harder and more expensive to park. My local council has just put up parking charges yet again. Not all of us are young and fit enough to walk long distances to the shops or carry heavy bags. I gave up trying to park yesterday, came home and spent over £120 online. No delivery fee. My local sewing shop missed out on the money which I would have preferred to spend there. Plenty of free parking for an hour or two would get people back to the shops.

CanadianGran Thu 13-Jan-22 20:52:04

We try to shop locally if possible, but like MissAdventure says, they need to keep up their stock and anticipate needs.

I find a lot of the chains with local stores don't bother to keep up their inventory, and just tell you to order it on line. Frustrating. In our town the hardware store is notorious for this.

What I really dislike about ordering online is the waste of packaging. I ordered 2 items from one shop, and they have shipped separately, wasting packaging and fuel for deliveries.

We have a lot of empty shop windows in our downtown. It's gloomy.

CanadianGran Thu 13-Jan-22 20:54:27

Saltnshake, why don't you write to your local council? Some towns have implemented certain time zones or areas for free parking, or have certain areas for 30 minutes or less.

nexus63 Thu 13-Jan-22 20:57:41

i have not been into glasgow city centre for 3 years, my dil and son take me to a large shopping centre every few weeks and other things i need i either get locally or online, my area in a busy shopping place but we have no card,shoe or clothing stores, only recently got a fruit shop and my local poundland closes this week as the rent has gone up to high for them to stay, if a large company like poundland can't afford it then what chance have small independent shops got, all our shops have houses above them so most if not all the building are owned by a HA. we don't have many empty shops as another charity or take away opens for a year then closes again. some people depending on the area don't have much choice but to shop online.

saltnshake Thu 13-Jan-22 21:02:41

CanadianGran, our council have been told and told about the parking but continue to ignore the views of the local population. I have several friends who no longer shop here but go elsewhere. Locals are expecting that the main party will lose lots of seats in the May local elections. They can ignore us only for so long.

Kali2 Thu 13-Jan-22 21:06:48

janeainsworth ''Town centres will evolve. They always have. If they become destinations for people to go to restaurants, visit historic sites, museums & galleries, & patronising small businesses rather than buying their meat, bread & fruit & veg there, does it really matter?''

I think that yes, it does matter. I'd really miss our bustling markets, be it in our small market town, and the large main town nearby. The mix, the banter- the odd and strange and more.

But even so, small towns do not have an array of historical sites, Museums and galleries to sustain them. they can be part of a lively town centre, but not sufficient on their own.

Since Covid, 4 shops have closed in our small town centre- one replaced by yet another coffee shop, another by yet another office stuff/cards retailer- there are now 3 in a row!

Several of the amazing independent shops have very ageing owners who will not be replaced when they are gone.

Kim19 Thu 13-Jan-22 21:21:25

Think it has already pretty much happened in many towns and cities. Covid has just hastened the demise methinks. Hope I'm wrong.

Calistemon Thu 13-Jan-22 21:42:17

It was happening way before Covid.
Many people shop online but many do still love shopping in stores.
Shopping online has its disadvantages as you can't see the size, the quality or feel the fabric of clothes but convenient for those who dislike going to shops.

Out of town shopping centres are not subject to such high rates, they have free parking and concentrate on retail with food outlets.

Bristol is a case in point - first Debenhams went, then last Saturday M&S closed in the city centre. John Lewis has relocated as did a M&S flagship store to where there is easy access and free parking.

M0nica Thu 13-Jan-22 22:17:09

Our council gives us 2 hours free parking, an adjacent one gives you an hour.

I still prefer to clothes and food shopping in person, so that, for food, I can replan my menu plan on the spot, if a crucial ingredient is missing and can make other changes on the spot as well. The same with clothes, I can try them on and a 2 hour trip to the shops means you get your clothes and can wear them far faster than ordering them online, and then returning them.

I think Charity shops are now a draw for a town centre, rather than a sign of closed shops. This afternoon a friend and I were discussing which of two local towns was best for charity shops.

Generally I dislike out of town shopping centres, too impersonally, too big and with a limited range of outlets. I use a town centre supermarket and while I am there I will also visit other town centre shops, get my hair done, see the dentist, wander round the Charity shops, all within a couple of hundred yards of the supermarket and none requiring any extra driving.

MayBeMaw Thu 13-Jan-22 23:14:29

It’s not internet shopping which has destroyed our town centres although things like working from home, and lockdown in general have played a significant part in the decrease in footfall.
Out of town shopping centres/villages/malls have been around for decades- look at the Trafford Centre, Bluewater, Brent Cross and the many many outlet villages as well.
As supermarkets have grown they have needed more space, ease of access for their delivery lorries, not to mention parking space for shoppers.
Have you ever sat in your car in your local high street on your way to work while the Coop (traditionally still in town centres) gets it daily stock delivery?
Greedy councils charging massive business rates have more than played their part, along with planning authorities and the granting of short term leases which has added hugely to the proliferation of charity shops.
This is a problem going back 40 or more years in some areas and the last two years are not even the cherry on the top.
You could argue that out of town shopping centres and indeed internet shopping could be reducing the level of traffic in many towns and along with that reducing the levels of pollution particularly from vehicle emissions. If you are pushing a buggy along a pavement or walking a child to school, any reduction in emissions in towns has to be a good thing.

Pepper59 Fri 14-Jan-22 01:24:07

I agree with what many say regarding Councils, Parking Charges etc. Last year I did nearly all my Christmas shopping locally, but had to resort to online for some items I could not get instore. Very often it's empty shelves in stores and I get annoyed when stores advertise offers only to be told there are none left when you enquire within the shop.

kittylester Fri 14-Jan-22 07:11:37

I am quite optimistic about the future of small towns.

Ours (which I think you know Kali) is being slightly redeveloped and, while there are lots of hairdressers, vape shop and cafes, these shops are mostly run by small business owners.

Small cafes are innovative in dealing with dietary issues like mine. Small businesses can adapt and develop more easily. One family business in our town started as a feed merchant and have sold ironmongery, then kitchen and homewares and now has a cafe, sells clothes and interiors stuff and seems to go from strength to strength.

It does rely on the local council adapting too.

Calendargirl Fri 14-Jan-22 07:16:03

I live in a small market town, and thankfully, it still has two butchers, a greengrocers(expensive), hardware shop, also expensive, and a family bakery. Plus a couple of attractive boutiques and a nice shoe shop.

Personally, I walk into town to utilise these shops. I don’t want to live in a place that just has restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, museums.

Certain shops come and go, thankfully on the whole they don’t stay empty too long, even if some don’t survive.

BlueBelle Fri 14-Jan-22 07:26:29

We ve lost about 15 or more shops and because we had 4 or 5 large Departmental stores (4 nationals) it looks pretty sad

I think it will take a generation or two and then someone will say ‘in the old days there use to be shops in the High Streets shall we try this novel idea’

Lincslass Fri 14-Jan-22 07:40:37

Another small town that has had a resurgence during covid, several Independant eateries, one Independant coffee shop expanded. A hardware shop, and artists shop, all opened. No pubs closed down, although reduced hours due to staff being off sick. All major shops dived before covid, and we have got used to being without them. Plenty of super market choices.

Doodledog Fri 14-Jan-22 07:41:02

I’m another who thinks they will evolve - or the ones with forward-thinking councils will.

Town centres could be community hubs, with spaces where people can met without a consumer-based economy. I’m thinking of Arts venues, sports facilities, social spaces where people of all ages can meet to talk and socialise (not necessarily selling alcohol). There could be youth clubs, education-based groups, clubs for older people- whatever fits the demographic of the town.

The funding and organisation of the spaces are things that councils (and the government) will have to work out, but it’s probably time that they broadened their remit anyway. A decent bus service to bring in people (not cars) from outlying areas would help.

A shift from consumerism to community could reduce loneliness, help mental health, and revitalise areas that have lost their focus, as well as giving towns a local feel, so that a high street in Cumbria is not the same as one in Cornwall.

Galaxy Fri 14-Jan-22 07:50:26

Town centres have to provide a service which we want, if not I am afraid they will struggle. I have always found the idea of shopping as a past time as not helpful for many reasons.

TerriBull Fri 14-Jan-22 08:02:59

I too think there has been a resurgence in the high street, I haven't been up to London lately but I hear from those who have, it is a bit sad and depleted since the initial lockdown. Hopefully it will adapt and rise again.

I certainly hope high streets don't disappear, there is a social aspect to shopping and browsing. Not everyone wants to do that in splendid isolation and make Amazon and similar even richer, I think a lot of us would rather support smaller businesses.

Galaxy Fri 14-Jan-22 08:06:22

But many of us want to use Amazon to buy say a phone charger and a clear pencil case (my last purchase!) and then do something social with our time. Those purchases are not an exciting social experience for me.

TerriBull Fri 14-Jan-22 08:10:09

I meant to add, as already has been pointed out, it's not only the Internet, but vast shopping malls have also played their part in sucking the guts out of the high street, personally I dislike that type of retail experience, but I imagine a younger demographic would favour the mall