Monday, September 14, 2009
High Street Blues in the UK
...I keep one of my search widgets on my Netvibes web portal looking for Miles Davis related YouTube postings. Imagine my surprise when I viewed the above post by UK retailing consultant Brian Moore. Sometimes these kind of nuggets of information to what is happening in the world of markets and urbanism arrive by sheer happenstance.
The video commentary deals with the rampantly imploding town centers of the UK and is interspersed between the depressing photos of mixed-use towncenters turning into, well, into mixed-use ghost towns. Imagine that. Old/New Urbanism going caput...Makes me wonder how long before similar things begin happening in our spanking new walkable town centers and revitalized downtowns. Among the things that Moore says about Britain's retail landscape is that the recession has been driving businesses "out-of-town and online at the expense of high street", a stark contertone to the retool and re-localize recessionary panacea we keep offering as urbanists.
The photos look convincing and with scary figures and forecasts interspersed, Moore makes a claim that this recent phenomenon is more than a blip in the UK. Britain's bone-headed "empty shop tax" might be reinforcing the process of decline, and one of the things Moore claims is that "store closures (represent) a long-term structural issue, rather than simply a short-term cyclical effect of the recession". I wonder how much of that is true, and what Moore is implying about the ability of UK retailers to pare down for High Street. Is the downtown eviscerating donut back in our horizon? It will be interesting to watch whether British urban consumers get used to online retail or commute out of town for laptops and groceries. My oh my...a lot to watch and think about here.