City centres ‘could become ghost towns’

Broke: The committee says local authorities need more money to redevelop town centres. © Getty

Should we mourn the decline of shops? A committee of MPs has warned that a boom in online shopping could soon leave town centres deserted. Thousands of shops have closed in the last year.

A committee of MPs has warned that Britain’s high streets are in danger of becoming ghost towns.

Last summer, figures revealed a brutal six months for British businesses, with 50,000 jobs lost as stores close and chains go bust.

Some were once among the UK’s biggest brands. Last year, Toys R Us and Maplin went into administration.

Now, MPs have proposed lowering business rates and raising taxes for online retailers like Amazon, who are crowding out the UK’s shops. Indeed, a study has found that consumers now buy more things online than in shops.

But it is not just websites like Amazon that are driving customers away from the high street. In fact, some argue that it is only a matter of time before physical stores are a thing of the past.

Some base this prediction on the rise of 3D printers. The machines already produce a dizzying array of objects. Once the technology becomes common in homes, we may never need to visit a shop again.

And there is another phenomenon which is slowly squeezing shops off the street.

Some call it “Uberisation”. Named after the popular taxi app, the term refers to the growing range of services provided by smartphone apps. For example, personal banking, laundry and even in-home haircuts can be organised without opening the front door.

But would the end of shops really be that bad?

Toys R Bust

Society would be soulless, some argue. Shops provide human contact and bring energy to public spaces. Without places to go and interact, we will all soon retreat into private spheres, consuming the world through computer screens.

The future is bright, others respond. The high street is a nostalgic concept that we should let die. Consumers do not want to wander around bland shopping centres when everything they desire can be delivered to them.

You Decide

  1. Are physical shops still necessary in the modern world?

Activities

  1. Think of your local high street and make a list of the shops located there. Now, imagine it in 50 years time. How do you suppose it has changed? Are there more of a particular type of shop? What shops do not exist anymore? Will it be a better or worse place than it is now?

Some People Say...

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”

Bo Derek

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The figure of 50,000 includes those who were made redundant and those who had their job threatened in the first six months of 2018. Most were working for high street chains.
What do we not know?
How bleak the future is. In the first half of 2017, on average, 14 shops closed down per day in the UK — however, this was the lowest rate of closures for seven years.

Word Watch

Figures
From the Press Association.
Toys R Us
Founded in 1948 in Washington DC, it came to dominate the toy market.
Maplin
Founded as Maplin Electronics Supplies in 1976, in Rayleigh, Essex. Originally a home-based mail order firm that was started in 1972, Maplin now has stores across the UK and Ireland.
Study
By comScore and UPS. It found that in 2016, the average shopper purchased 51% of their goods online.
Taxi app
Originally a taxi-hailing app, Uber has moved into food delivery as well. Most estimates put the company’s value at $50 billion at least.