The High Street Is Dead, Long Live The High Street
It’s no surprise that with the convenience and sometimes cheaper prices that online shopping provides that its impact on the high street in the past 15-20 years has been astronomical. Indeed, since the turn of the millennium online shopping has become more the norm than the exception. In fact, an online shopping survey by BigCommerce found that 96% of Americans shop online with an average of 36% of their shopping budgets being allocated to online shopping.
For someone like me who lives a mere 3-5 minute walk from Liverpool One I really should have no excuse to not pop my trainers on and go into town. Strangely however actually going out for a day of shopping is a rarity, possibly due to my lack of expendable funds or quite possibly due to the absolutely dire nature of the high street. Objectively walking around town with bags, dealing with crowds and walking from one side of town to the other only to find what I was looking for is out of stock or 15 pounds more expensive than what a quick Google search can show me is quite negative.
When it comes to media and entertainment most of the time you don’t even need the physical item to experience them. As a gamer, if a new title is reaching its release date I can pre-order the game to have it playable a second after midnight on the day of release and with my shocking sleeping pattern that normally works out perfectly. Similarly, with books and Amazon Kindle’s recent rise in popularity, it must have Waterstones quaking in their boots. Now, personally, as with many people, I like the feel of a real book in my hands and prefer to take my eyes off a screen for some time, seeing as my work mainly involves staring at the reflective colours of a laptop screen for many hours a day, but for many, the future is Kindle. Why lug a book around when you can just read on your smartphone?
A friend of mine recently called me out on an article I wrote in which I said something about popping into HMV to pick up a Blu-ray or DVD. She screenshotted the sentence and said, “Do people still do that?”. When asked to elaborate, again downloading media was the answer. “I’ve got all my films on a hard drive” This got me thinking about something quite funny and dark at the same time. With the recent passing of my Nan, one of the tasks we faced was clearing out her house and after about the 50th box of books/films/CDs carried to the charity shop I realised that when my generation takes the long sleep our children and grandchildren will just have to decide who’s task it is to sieve through the multiple gigabytes of data found on a hard drive instead of actually physically exerting themselves. You’re welcome future grandchildren of mine, Grandpa’s hip…(has just been replaced… sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
But even when you do need the physical object, say food or drink, you know because we can’t download a 3-course meal yet, There are other alternatives. Most major supermarkets offer home delivery services which I think for the elderly, people in rural areas or whose jobs occupy opening hours is a superb idea, For anyone else it comes down to the reasons I mentioned before about the negatives of going out to shop. Although soon you won’t even need these delivery services. I did read about ‘Foodini’ being able to print burgers and pizzas, the future is a scary place.
“Should we go out for dinner dear?”
“Nah I’ll just download some caviar and have a pint emailed over later”
Now I’ve mentioned some of the benefits of online shopping let’s actually look at this with a different point of view. I read in The Guardian that A survey for the CBI found 46% of businesses allowing their staff to work from home, up from just 11% in 2004. Companies are seeing the money-saving advantages of not paying for office space, cleaning staff, commutes etc.
So is this the future, you work from home, get all your food and drink delivered and download any entertainment, is anyone ever going to leave their flats and houses? The streets of Liverpool will be nothing but cafes and bars, the postal service will be the biggest employers in the world and no one will ever talk to another human in person unless it’s signing for a parcel or they’re half cut from the stress of staying indoors 24/7.
I’ve never actually seen the film (maybe I should download it) but when I’ve bought this topic up with friends they’ve always gone “It’s gonna be like that film Wall-e”. All I’ve seen is the posters of a lonely looking robot. Christ alive I don’t want to see that, a robot showing more emotion than a human? That’s already another rant for another time.
If this is where the world is heading it won’t be surprising to see people leaving the inner cities, maybe London housing prices might actually go back to being reasonable. Why would you pay over the odds for an inner city flat if there are none of the benefits of convenience? The internet is bringing the world together but also separating us more. It’s a classic catch 22. If society is going to survive then we all have to make an effort to support the high street otherwise it’s going to be nothing but drunken and caffeine fulled carnage on the streets. Some convenience is great, it’s well…convenient but we humans are social creatures and in some ways, the high street is one of the last great standing bastions of unsolicited social interaction, surely that’s something worth protecting.
If this is where the world is going then stop the bus, I want to get off and visit the high street.