John Harris

Journalist & Author

People are returning to the high street, but the retail crash has changed it beyond recognition | John Harris

The easing of Covid restrictions in England will reveal the effects of the loss of brick and mortar shops in our towns and cities

As what we now call non-essential retail reopens in England, the return of crowds to our high streets will presumably be hailed as a moment of unbridled collective joy: a great national pastime restored, money at last handed to businesses besides Amazon and the big supermarkets, and – amid hazard tape and sanitiser stations – our ghostly town and city centres brought back to life.

But what people will find when they get there may make for a distinctly melancholy experience. Precise numbers for the entire retail sector are hard to come by, but over the course of 2020, Great Britain is reckoned to have lost about 17,500 chain outlets. In the six weeks until mid-February this year, more than 1,000 more announced their closure; the rate of job losses is now put at 850 for each working day. Once businesses exit the current pause on business rates and the furlough scheme draws to its planned close in September, there will presumably have been even more casualties: some forecasters predict that there could soon be as many as 80,000 vacant shops around the country.

Related: The disappearance of department stores will rob us of a certain kind of magic | Kitty Drake

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 11th, 2021 at 10:47 pm and is filed under Guardian RSS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « This is the legacy of Britain’s year of Covid: power unchecked, scrutiny sidelined | John Harris | Let’s not go back to the denial and delusion of the Thatcher years | John Harris »
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