The changing face of Britain’s High Street

The future of Britain’s High Street is in our hands. It’s no good moaning if we lose our unique and distinctive independent shops, including those friendly book stores with heaving shelves.

imageLike me, you might have a favourite book shop you would hate to lose. An independent book shop has a totally different atmosphere to a chain. It is much cosier and staff are always well informed. When I visit my local bookshop, Topping, of Ely, time always flies by as I  become absorbed in scanning so many tempting titles.

All credit to ace author Richard Havers who has launched a stunning blog about great independent book shops – and wants to hear your personal recommendation.  He is keen to promote book shops which are “run by people who are passionate about books, not products”. Do visit his site and let him know.

*My sister is an increasingly rare breed. She is an independent retailer selling High Street ladies fashion. She has been doing it since leaving school at 18. She is keeping her head above water, but Wisbech 001 like other independent owners, faces stiff competition from supermarkets and websites. A couple of years ago she thought about selling up. When her loyalcustomers heard about this, they started a petition pleading with her to remain open. She was very touched and gave in to their requests. Going into Rosalind’s shop in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire is a unique experience, as any of her customers will tell you.

She is pictured here with my MEP Robert Sturdy. He visited her shop once when we highlighted imported goods.

*I found this article really interesting in The Times, where a retail research analyst predicted the future of Britain’s High Street. I quite like the idea of Japanese-style tea houses replacing some of our coffee shops with a new drinks emphasis on health and well being.

I can quite believe that future High Street pharmacies will offer health services such as dental and eye care. A pity something couldn’t have been done along the same lines to save our struggling post offices.

Do you have a favourite independent shop? How do you think the High Street will evolve over the next 10-20 years?


  1. I like teh Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden. Locally it’s Swan Books in Upminster

  2. I love Topping’s – though my bank account doesn’t! – and tried to do my bit to sing its praises with a link here:

  3. I like Richard’s new site very much. I sometimes grumble about the lack of department stores and chains here but it does mean that the little shops stay open.

  4. I am such a fan of the small shop! Mercy, now adrift in America where everything is so HUGE I am always on the look for a small shop. My favourite at present (somewhat removed from from High Street) is ‘The Mystery Book Store’.

  5. My hope is that there will be far fewer estate agents.

  6. Independent, of course.

  7. I have a favourite independant cafe and a favourite independant butchers. Every so often I visit Totness which seems to have many independant shops.

    I also like browsing round indepedant surplus army shops. Independant car parts suppliers and DIY shops are far better for giving advice and supplying individual parts – Halfords, for example can have ill informed staff.

  8. Not just the High Street
    but the whole ‘shopping’ experience
    I Love The Grand Arcadem even though I’ve actually yet to buy anything there since it opened – it is nice to see new shops and a wide selection of retail choices.

    Mind you I’ve always loved windowshopping

    PS – Surely the credit crunch can’t mean the end of M&S in the high street, how would Gordon Brown ever be able to explain that one.

    So do you reckon this year’s elections are going to deliver many surprises? What is the conservative ‘goal’ (resolution?) for this year

  9. I took my mother shopping in Peterborough last weekend and we didn’t go in one independent store. It’s impossible to find one in city centres, they tend to be tucked away in side streets.

    JMB, I’m sure Richard would love to hear about a great book shop in Canada. He is a transatlantic traveller with contacts in the States and they could end up walking through the door of that book shop one day and say it was recommended by you.

  10. What a lovely idea Richard has in making that website. I wonder if he would like one from Canada.

    We have areas in Vancouver which are like little villages but not many stores seem to stay for long. In one not too far from me, only the dog groomer, the vet and the bank have remained unchanged for any length of time. Retailing is a very hard business.

  11. I have found it quite sad how independent shops have declined over the last few years. I was in Cantebury over Christmas and it was a refreshing change to see so many individual shops, rather than just the usual chain stores!

  12. Too right! My favorite bookshop is Shakespeare’s book in Paris

  13. I agree; there are so few indepenant booksellars now.

  14. We have a few independant shops which I would like to see stay open here in Wantage.

    Wantage is not very big at all, and we a have lost, 3 Estate Agents, Smiths moved down to a new area next to Sainsburys complex, and that has not been filled, lost Woolworths, and then today I went into town, and found two pubs have shut down, one was right on the square, not my sort but fine for lunch and coffe..and the other was the best place I would say for over 30’s in the evening,no fruit machines, no loud music, (I do like music though) they did great food. We also used to go there for our girlie lunches 🙁 and take our family out there. I wonder what is going to disappear next??

    Two tea shops shut down in Cambridge, I know one was Sallys favourite.

    We also had the Wantage Bookshop, but when Smiths came in, and the big Sainsburys, it couldn’t keep up with them…

    I really don;t like the idea of going to High Street pharmacies for my Dental or Eye Care, you would really have to trained up alot to do that, no I will stick to the Dentist or Opticians Thanks.

    I wonder how other countries get on, what about when the tourist season is over and they have to live through the long winter months, with just the locals you think they make so much money through the summer to keep going?

  15. I don’t think there is an independent retailer left in South Shields town centre these days Ellee, ah no, yes there is, Minchella’s ice cream parlour with it’s 1950’s decadence.
    How I wish Oliver’s were still here, a musty dusty bookseller and tobacconist.

    I imagine all town centres will be commercially cloned over the next five to ten years unfortunately, unless some councils plan to put some little spaces aside to accommodate independent retailers on cheaper rents.


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