Monday, 6 December 2010

only 19 shopping days till xmas

Usually this blog (well 'Ezers posts) take a swipe at some of the more ridiculous aspects of planning.

News that £800k was spent shopping online in one minute recently and today's announcement of nationwide super fast broadband by 2015, gives clear intent (ok ok we can all ponder what is actually meant by nationwide and super fast). So the future for retail?.

Three recent events demonstrated the changes happening before our eyes. Firstly a trip to a self storage container hire depot prompted the question "who uses all these self storage units?": builders, shopkeepers, internet traders, delivery drivers came the reply, Secondly, a recent trip to the nadir of my retail life - Ikea. Having been given a printed page with a bar code, the goods were paid for in the traditional way at a till but I didn't leave the store with them. I was sent in the car to a warehouse about 500 yards away to collect them. Is that retail as we know it? Sounds a bit Argos to me but in a B8 style.

The third, and most chilling (literally) was a trip to my bakers on Saturday. I was late as usual but he had unusually high stock left. Was it the cold? Christmas coming? Not really he said, seems people are buying (or eating?) less fresh bread these days.

I dont have the answer to the closing question this blog prompts. There are success stories out there we know even though the New Economics Foundation predicts clone towns and this profession seems to seek and spend millions "restoring" the fabric of our town centres, only for consumers to turn their backs. As the digital generation gets spending power, are we to see a revolution as people quite literally convenience shop - the internet is always on, always warm, price compared online and delivered at a time to suit you... sounds too good to be true.

I wonder if in 10 years time the traditional town centre shop as we really know it will survive, But the even more interesting question is whether its the beginning of the end for the 1980's retail park?

How long before tired retail parks need investment but Curry's, Homebase and Halfords become internet based. How long before housebuilders start to look to secure options? As consumers buy the bulky goods they were designed to sell online, might the opportunity exist for Town Centres to reinvent themselves and fight back as places for local, sustainable daily needs?

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