Not this again, you may think. But it's a changing situation and what was
written, say, a year ago would need to be modified now. Last year, I did
draft, but not use, an article on two facing pages - one a rosy view of the
future of 'high streets' and one a black view, and they were of equal length
and seriousness. I'm not so sure they'd be equal now.
Nation-wide closures of a number of big shops have left more gaps in our
shopping streets which are impossible to ignore. Yet some of us who love
Ipswich feel we have to defend our town as if Ipswich is doing something
wrong. And we and some Ipswich-based organisations may try to reassure
ourselves that it's an economic blip which market forces will correct in
time. But even when the economy picks up, the mighty factors of internet
shopping and out -of-town shopping will still apply. In the long-term it's
hardly likely that the presently empty big shop premises will all be filled.
There are some encouraging initiatives already to be seen in our town. The
previous Newsletter referred to the success of Patisserie Valerie in Butter
Market and we can add now the arrival at last of a proper shoe repairer (not
a heel bar) in the town centre, just across the road in the same street. But
specialist newcomers don't need premises of the size of the former Croydons
in Tavern Street, nor the vast floor area of the Co-op in Carr Street.
Rationally and ideally, 'high streets' would contract and businesses would
move closer together leaving only a few empty premises. But the owners
(mostly insurance firms, pension funds, etc) are holding on to capital
assets expensively purchased and nominally still very valuable, even if
empty. So, rational decisions won't be made overnight!
In the meantime, I should hope that people who value their 'high streets'
will continue to use them regularly, whether for chain store purchases or
specialist shopping (where it's more likely one could chat with staff) and,
of course, for meeting friends in town. Only then could a vicious circle be