Mary Portas published a report today on the British High Street.
She has 28 recommendations. Good for her, but good for the High Street?
Her report was reported as being produced in response to an environment in which apparently we don't want to shop on our High Streets. Apparently we all want to buy everything online or in out of town retail parks or shopping centres. Really?
I like seeing things before I buy them. I would much rather buy in a shop rather than buy online. So why do i buy online? Well I can do it from the comfort of my home whilst drinking a cup of tea and the goods get delivered to my front door. That must be the reason.
Well that might explain part of it. Price might play a part, but I rarely compare online with High Street prices.
So what's the real reason?
Frankly it's because I'd need to travel to an out of town retail park or shopping centre to be able to buy the things I buy online. My High Street doesn't offer me the variety I need. I loathe shopping centres and retail parks. I don't like driving to shops because I hate traffic and the M25. I never know if I'll get stuck in traffic and that's not good if I know I need to get home in time for the school run.
I even buy groceries online because I have to use the car for a weekly shop and that means driving a distance or fighting for space with the other residents of Brentwood in the local Sainsbury car park. The exception is the local farm shop which usually gets two visits from me a week.
There are horrible things about buying online. Buying the wrong thing has happened to me and to friends. It's easy to make a mistake. In the space of a week I had the same jazz saxophone music book turn up to the house twice. I bought from an independent music store online but forgot I'd also left a copy in an Amazon basket.
I loathe, with almost every fibre of my being, the courier companies that try to deliver, try again and then require me to visit their grubby industrial estate to collect my goods. Had I been in when they tried to deliver they would have handed over the goods requiring just a signature, but because I'm collecting from them I need to take a passport, driving licence and utility bill and then sign for the goods. This causes problems when one orders goods in one name, like Ann Cardus, but all of one's ID is in the name of Carolyn Cardus or Carolyn A Cardus. The arguments I've had could fill a book.
I would do all of my non grocery shopping on the High Street if only the choice of goods was on my High Street. I like the coffee shops; I like being able to nip to the Post Office, bank or library whilst doing some shopping. But there's no point, unless the right shops are there.
Brentwood is trying and the collection of businesses in Crown Street is really trying to improve the sense of vibrancy that a High Street needs.
Mary's right. Car parking should be free. Out of town store development should be stopped. A High Street needs to be an interesting destination where consumers feel happy spending time and, more importantly, money.