Saving shops is not a noble cause, but a lost one: retail units are better converted into homes, according to a British think tank, because they are doomed to disappear anyway.
"Saving shopping streets is impossible"
Saving ailing stores from ruin is just delaying the inevitable - and thus just wasted money. It is therefore better to let them perish and use the vacant space to build homes, the British think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) concludes from an investigation into the rising vacancy rate in British shopping streets. "Politicians who promise to save the shopping street promise their voters the impossible", the researchers told FashionUnited.
The emptying of shopping streets is inevitable, the SMF believes, because it has been going on for years: since the announcement of Brexit, turnover in British retail has been falling continuously. For many retailers, 2019 was the worst year in a quarter of a century, and this year is already a disaster due to the coronavirus. Today, there are some 50,000 fewer stores in the British high street than a decade ago.
Homes instead of stores
The SMF report, entitled 'A New Life for the High Street', states that the corona crisis will further accelerate existing trends, including a shift in shopping away from urban centres. As more and more employees spend part of their working week at home, the number of pedestrians in city centres will decrease and more shops will disappear.
Instead of stopping this "inevitable decline", the think tank is proposing to convert shop premises into some 800,000 new homes. "Trying to prop up high street retailers facing long-term decline is not an act of kindness to workers or towns. It just postpones the inevitable and wastes opportunities to develop new policies to help workers and towns embrace the future", the think tank says.