Art & Design

Jan 15, 2013

As High St dies, it’s time to build a new main street

Downtown is dying, in America and and now in the UK with news of the collapse of retailers Jessops and HMV. Crikey's man-at-large writes from London on why it's time to rethink our city planning.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle



The long-forecast “death of the High Street” jumped closer today — in the UK at least — with two back-to-back announcements from major chains.

Jessops, the country’s major camera chain, went into administration last week, and died this week, after suppliers and management couldn’t make a deal. The company’s sales were flatlining, at around 230 million pounds pa, carrying 60 million pounds in debt. The 192-store chain closed so fast that those folks who still bring their photos in for developing won’t be able to pick them up — there’s no one there to hand them out.

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18 thoughts on “As High St dies, it’s time to build a new main street

  1. zut alors

    Alas, the writing is on the wall.

    However, the humble corner shop will survive as humans will always run short of milk, bread, soft drinks et al. There’s no way the consumer will drive several kilometres to a shopping mall then endure the hassle of finding a park just for a litre of milk. Convenience stores are aptly named.

  2. paddy

    Even when describing the brutally sad stuff. Rundle does “rage against the dying of the light” better than most.

    Best thing I’ve read all day Guy.

  3. Elbow Patches

    Very interesting. As more purchases go online, the human habitat has renewed possibilities. Our nearest big mall appears to have responded to the challenge by growing even larger… It is huge. It is Hell. This Christmas I managed to completely avoid it and found most gifts and food at an open air market and at our local ‘high street’ which has been newly invigorated by a shop run by some artists (they rent space to other crafts people and run short classes in various old school art/craft/sewing skills). They got the other businesses together and ran a little Christmas fair. A lot of op shops nearby and a community book shop. Many small stalls and the cafe did a roaring trade. The arcade below is home to the local dungeons and dragons fraternity. Woolworths is about to open newly built supermarket nearby… Wonder how that will affect the strip.

  4. Gavin Moodie

    I have been thinking about this issue from the other end, the new technologies making ‘telecommuting’or working from home ubiquitous. I presume most will still want a village square in which to socialise, and this could support a reorientation of local activities and facilities that GRundle discusses.

    @ zut

    I think this phenomenon differs greatly by locale. Almost everywhere in Australia I go the milk bar/dairy has gone. There are ‘convenience stores’ in and around the capital cities, but in vast acres of Australia y’d pick up yer litre of milk at the nearest petrol station, with a ‘candy bar’ for a traveller.

  5. John Bennetts

    Agreed, Gavin.

    I stop at petrol stations to buy only milk or bread, despite the rip-off prices, more often than I do to buy liquid fossil fuels. The old convenience stores are fading fast and almost gone.

    When McJack’s or Hungry Donald’s gets around to putting in a shelf or two of the basics at the back of the McCoffee Bar or in the drive-through, that will be the end of that… not for me, though. I prefer my food edible.

  6. archibald

    Yep – corner stores are mostly kaput already. The nearest 7/11 – which is a petrol station – covers the milk but there are supermarkets within 1km so during business hours (ie 6 or 8am – midnight) that is where most of the business went.

  7. zut alors

    Interesting to read the comments about the demise of corner stores. I’m proximate to Brisbane’s CBD and there’s a small chain of them thriving here.

  8. Gavin Moodie

    True. Also in the West End. But not so much in Mt Gravatt away from the high street, let alone Redland and Logan.

  9. Frank

    Yeah, there are convenience stores scattered throughout the Perth CBD which appear to have sprung up to serve the various residential towers that spring up pre-GFC. It’s interesting because both Coles and Woolies have a CBD presence as well – my theory is that people just don’t want to walk that far and driving in the CBD is far too unwieldy.

    Interesting article indeed, Guy. Surely there must be someone out there who is putting serious thought into a post-retail high street? Was it something seriously looked at in the utopian urban planning in the UK after the last world war?

  10. AsGrayAsGray

    JB @ #5 – Milk from a petrol station? That’s desperation, surely. And bread!? Does the bread not adopt a fumey kind of after-taste…? Those bread bags aren’t exactly airtight.
    I seriously hope your prediction of the ubiquitous fast-food outlet having a ‘McGeneralStore’ department is a long way from coming to fruition.
    I still have a ‘milk bar’ just down the road, and even though I know they buy most of their stock from the central Wesfarmers supermarket, after mark-up they are still cheaper than a petrol station – just.
    The logical conclusion, though, is that we’ll all be ordering our consumables, gadgets and accoutrements online, and having them delivered, ready for collection, at the nearest automated co-branded petro-fossil/convenience/’food’ outlet the next time you need unleaded. One store to serve them all…

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