Opinion

The high street isn’t dead it’s just changing

By Nik Butler

This weekend marks the beginning of the Great Horsham Beer Festival Ticket Hunt.

Okay that may not be an official thing or even its title but when you consider how amazing the Beer Festivals have been over the last decade you can appreciate that the tickets are becoming a much valued prize for those eager ale enthusiasts and Morris watchers. At times like this I find my own thoughts echo those of Dan Thompson, Author of Popup Business for dummies and whose twitter account is @artistsmakers, that the High street is not dying or suffering because of the Internet and out of town shopping malls but it is in a state of transition moving on from previously  eighties ideals.

The iconoclastic motivations of the market may look like trouble for many towns but if you see it from the perspective that “what people want” and “what people need” has changed substantially in twenty years you begin to realise that what we wrought online we now build in life. Communities are building events and creating content through Festivals of Sound, Speed, Game Play , Beer and Sport and the high street spaces that facilitate those events are gaining footfall and economic benefit derived through customer awareness.

The reality of empty spaces in a mall is not a problem for the town or its community but for the landlords and owners of property which stand empty. They bet on floor space just as we all headed into cyberspace. Watch the twitter streams and facebook pages of Horsham businesses and you spot the early signs of a new type of retail life; the event and the club.

Shops are opening later to accommodate special releases or to display online broadcasts or advertising demonstrations and opportunities to learn new skills. It is as if community colleges are now commercial colleges building loyal customers through teaching and creating students whose hobbies and interests will support those shops on the high street.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that coffee shops and restaurants are thriving. The town centre of 2020 will be shaped by the desire to increase social interaction making it harder for shops to act as mere retail outlets delivering a bland collection of shelved products. When I join that line of eager Beer Festival attendees I am joining a social event that is in many ways an indicator of how Horsham is transitioning its future.

2 comments on “The high street isn’t dead it’s just changing

  1. In todays climate, any venture that stands still risks death. While traditional values of courtesy and service will never go out of fashion, the historic dominance of the High St is gone. If you hold to the old fashioned “if you build it, they will come”, you are in for a rude awakening.

    Now that satisfaction is just a click away, with next day delivery, we are no longer just competeing for a customers money. We are now all competeing for their time. A High St. now needs to be somewhere that people want to, and can easily and safely spend what is becoming the most valuable of currencies, hours.

    Whether it is transport and parking, food n drink, kids entertainmemt or pavements and lighting. If the High St. is somewhere that people want to spend time, then they will spend money almost by accident.

  2. I quite agree – the idea that the centre of our community is all about shopping is really rather ridiculous, and is tied into the equally-silly idea that we are defined by what we buy.

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