For a long time, the high street has progressively suffered while out-of-town shopping centres have blossomed. Many high streets, once loved and bustling, are now left as ghost towns.

The rise of online, the change in buying habits and then the upheaval caused by the pandemic and more recently the cost of living crisis have significantly affected the high street, and by extension our social fabric and livelihoods.

In 2023 alone, tens of thousands of loved shops and over a hundred thousand jobs were lost because of the “out of town” shopping centres, including large brands like M&S and Next and the online retail world with the likes of Amazon, which is only getting bigger. In 2019 online sales in the UK accounted for a fifth of sales and have grown to over a quarter in 2021. So what does this mean for our economy and communities?

Due to the gradual neglect of the high street, it feels as though we as communities aren't as united or linked. In contrast to older times, the high street used to be a place of celebration, markets, festivals and many more. Shops were completely family-run, by people who were increasingly regarded as respectable and skilled members of the community and who farmed, made and sold produce. However, these shops have slowly disappeared from our high streets due to mass producers. 

Although there have been big impacts on the high street, it is now apparent that some have made it through and I plan to investigate why and how. For example, our beloved Winchester streets have been getting busier. This town is a prime example of what can be done to help mitigate the extinction of the high street, with daily markets of beautiful foods, clothes and homemade goods and the annual Winchester Christmas market travelled to by many from outside the county.

Throughout my articles over the next few months, I will be exploring deep into the topics of the growth of mobile phones and technology and their effect on the retail world of rising costs and competition, and what we can do to keep high streets alive with evidence from retailers and town centre managers.

  • This article was written by Tessa Green, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.