No Way Back for the High Street

07:26 Monday 30th July 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: We’ve all seen the shops closed on the high street. Clinton Cards going, Game going, and plenty of independents as well. Well now not only are they blaming the austere times that we’re living in, Adam Kirtley, they’re blaming the weather, aren’t they?
ADAM KIRTLEY: Well they’re blaming the weather in part. Julian Graves by the way is another one who’s just gone. I think that does, or did, wholefood, and that sort of thing. Now, 426 retailers went into insolvency in the second quarter of this year, and that’s up from 386 in the same period last year, so it’s 40 more, if you like, retailers have gone belly-up. Some of these will be very very small, some will be the big ones like Clinton Cards. Now the wash-out of the summer does appear to have exacerbated the problem, but I think Paul it would be unfair to blame it all on the weather. The bottom line is we’re just not shopping.
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s the thing. We’re not buying things we don’t ansolutely have to buy because we haven’t got the cash.
ADAM KIRTLEY: We haven’t got the cash, or even if we do at the moment have the cash we’re fearful that we’d better hang on to it for fear of losing our job in the future. So we are just not shopping. I was in Manchester last week, and I went into one of these, I don’t know what you call them, Bicester Village is one in Oxfordshire.
ADAM KIRTLEY: Yes. Those things. And there was one up there. I went in there and it was absolutely empty, with 60% off, 70% off. People just are not buying anything they don’t absolutely need. And that has really had a knock-on effect. Now evidently high street shops always fare worse in the bad weather, because you get rained on, whereas if you go to a mall or something, you don’t. But I think it’s unfair to say it’s just the weather. It’s exacerbated the problem, but it’s not the total problem.
PAUL STAINTON: You have to ask yourself, how long can some of these business carry on. If you’re selling things we don’t actually have to have? Everybody does, and everybody gets born, so undertakers will do fine, and people selling baby stuff might do fine. But in the middle, apart from food, we don’t need to buy anything else, do we?
ADAM KIRTLEY: Food and a bit of clothing. You don’t. And that’s the problem. And I think you’ll see a lot more going under. Now, at least hopefully you can say it’s peaked, but if the economy carries on in the doldrums and double-dip recession, they’re even now talking about a triple-dip recession, it is very very grim out there. And the retailers are suffering as well, because of course people shop online a lot more. It’s cheaper, it’s quite convenient, and it is not very good. I think you’ve got to look at the way shopping has changed though Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Well this is the thing. We’re all getting into these habits now. Are we ever going to break them, once we get to the point where we’re very very very savvy about what we buy. The worry is for the retails going forward is that we continue like that.
ADAM KIRTLEY: I think that’s a very good point. Everything evolves. But then, you know, I’m sure in the 1910s and the 1920s, blacksmiths got worried because the car came along and they thought, well hang on, how are we going to survive with our horseshoe making activities? Things evolve, and I think shopping has evolved, as everything does, and you don’t have a right to be on the high street. But if you’re there, and you’re working in it, and you own it, it must be very very difficult at the moment.
PAUL STAINTON: Especially if you’re a top hat maker.
ADAM KIRTLEY: Well indeed. A milliner. It wasn’t that long ago, fifty, sixty years ago, that the high street had little individual shops. They had a hat maker. When I first bought a house in Surrey, our little town high street had a hatmaker, it had a shop that just sold bras and nothing else. And all of those things have gone now.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Exactly. The way we shop has ultimately changed Adam. Thank you. And it could be a very different high street in the future. Are you buying anything you don’t need anymore? I don’t know many people that are.