Column how do we save the high street york press apple tablets at walmart

ANOTHER day, another store closes. New look has just announced 60 shops are to shut, toys R us and maplins has collapsed into administration and M&S, thomas cook and homebase are amongst other retailers planning to shut some stores. Thousands of jobs have gone or are under threat.

And not even york – this prosperous mecca for tourists, now named as britain’s ‘best place to live’ – is escaping the icy blast which is sweeping the high street like a retail beast from the east.

Our flagship retail thoroughfare, coney street, is already looking rather sad, pocked by ten empty premises, including the huge former BHS store, currys/PC world and, most recently, river island. Dorothy perkins/burtons was due to shut down last autumn but then given a reprieve and is still hanging on, but with no guarantee of a long term future.


In york, a taskforce has been set up in a bid to fill the city’s empty shops.York retail forum is working with city of york council, make it york and york BID to try attract new businesses to vacant sites.City centre

Make it york says it is confident it can turn the situation around. Really? The odds really are stacked against the high street, both in york and nationwide, and it seems inevitable more stores will close as retailers engage in a grim battle for survival.

So what is going wrong? Well, where do you start? Firstly, there’s been slow wage growth, so there’s less money to spend in the shops. Then prices of imported goods have been rising because of the fall in the pound since the brexit vote.

Then there’s the impact on retailers’ costs of the new national living wage for over-25s, worthy as it is, and of rising business rates and rents. Some retailers are also to blame by opening too many outlets in the good times and now struggling with huge debts.

And then there’s the real elephant in the shop – the dear old internet. It’s been slaughtering the traditional newspaper industry, destroying journalists’ jobs, and now its coming for the shops as people increasingly buy their clothes, books, shoes and jewellery online instead of going out and shopping.Business rates

Some retailers are fighting back, for example by taking customer service to another level, and trying to make shopping an "experience" you just can’t get online.

But surely it is also time for government to intervene – at least to ensure shops play on a level playing field by reforming business rates. As the treasury select committee said in january, they damage the competitiveness of high street shops because they weigh heavily in favour of retail parks and online businesses.

In york, I think the authorities need to look at every aspect of the city centre shopping experience to see what can be done to encourage shoppers and also ensure they are not discouraged. For example, by looking into banning the chuggers, who block your path with their enthusiastic, cheery, pitiable or downright intimidating pleas to support their charity while you’re just trying to do a bit of shopping. I don’t think you’ll find them in the edge of town shopping centres so why should the city centre give them free range?High street

But I think we also need to take a long hard look at our own shopping habits.There is no point – in fact it is hypocritical – to moan about the decline of the high street if you buy almost everything online and hardly ever go in a shop. I think york’s bookshops, from waterstones to the little apple book shop, are some of the nicest shops to visit in the city centre, but if I buy all my books on amazon, how can I expect them to survive? So, on my day off today I’m turning off my laptop and heading into town to buy a book.