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The end of main street

Wondering about the future. Always wondering about the future. Thinking about where things are going. It’s the only thing we don’t know. We know the past; we live in the present; we wonder about the future. What’s my future? What’s your future? What’s the future for our children and our children’s children? What’s the future?

We can see some things for certain. Our future will be more technology-based, more digital, more automated. It will be easier in terms of style of living but harder in terms of challenge of living. My parents lived through wars and poverty and hardship. I didn’t. I lived in an era of booming markets, admittedly with the odd recession, and easier and easier leisure thanks to technology. My children? My children’s children? Who knows?

One thing I do know, which inspired this blog, is that we won’t go out shopping. I think retailers are dead meat. The retail shopping experience is a waste of time. Just shop online.

This trend was inevitable thanks to the internet, and has been accelerated thanks to the coronavirus.

Before coronavirus, the high  [main] street had seen the collapse of many household names (as I’ve blogged before), but it’s now turbo-charged.

From The Guardian:

In Royals shopping centre, Debenhams, once the flagship of this and other high streets, is closed. This branch of the veteran retailer is due to reopen post lockdown, unlike some others in the country after the company fell into administration for the second time in a year. What was British Home Stores is now a building site, and a busy one as the construction sector is up and running in England. It’s going to be a Primark … in December, high street footfall was 3.5% down on the previous year, and 20.5% down in the last decade.

The reason why this struck me is that there was another headline:

Shopper numbers jump 31% as lockdown in England relaxed

Wow! That sounds great. Except when you see the charts. The shoppers are up 31% on a week ago, which was a bank holiday Monday, but year-on-year the numbers are dire.

The high street is dying; physical retailing is dying; physical shopping is dying; the end of the store is nigh. Live with it!

In saying this, it makes you wonder what it means for real estate and payments. If the high street dies, what replaces it? Sure, there may be coffee shops and restaurants, but most high streets will become residential developments. A decade or more from now, and there will be no ‘city centres’. Just lots of high rise blocks of residential dwellings and all of those residents will be ordering stuff online.

In other words, the whole physicality of our world is replaced by digitality. Amazon sales were up 26 percent in first quarter 2020, and a sixth of China’s retail sales are purchased in one store: Alibaba.

And what happens with payments? If all of us pay via apps and online, who needs ‘point-of-sale’?

The high street is dead; the internet is alive.

The face-to-face world is no more; the internet is how we connect.

Live with it.

But then, when I say ‘live with it’, what happens to the heart of the town?

What happens to our relationships? What happens to our humanity? What happens to our experiences? What happens to our senses? What happens to our own sense of reality?

Hmmmmm …

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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