Shuttered shops and empty pavements in what are usually some of the nation’s busiest coastal towns merely underline what could be the final destination for Britain’s beleaguered high street. The race to save the high street in the country’s most vulnerable economies is on.
Whilst the downsides of Coronavirus for retail businesses across the country are many and varied, one potentially positive takeaway from the deserted high streets that greeted all those who ventured outside last week was that the images they subsequently circulated struck a chord with the public – and shine a bright spotlight on the ugly reality of shuttered shops.
Since the rise of online shopping, the British public has grown accustomed to the steady attrition on their favourite high-street chains – which have steadily disappeared only to be replaced either by charity shops, betting shops, or simply left to stand vacant.
But last week saw a dwindling number of pedestrians in some of the country’s most popular seaside towns come face-to-face with what is certain to be the inevitable fate of the British high street should it continue to be ignored by Westminster, with row upon row of ice-cream stands, arcades, clubs and boutique shops with their shutters down…and the streets deserted.
“I just nipped out to get a couple of things, and the emptiness of the place has made me quite emotional actually,” one Ingoldmells resident told Lincolnshire Live. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s absolutely empty. It’s going to have a huge impact on Ingoldmells – and Skegness too. It’s so, so sad.”
Down on the Isle of Sheppey, meanwhile, and local news source KentOnline documented a similar situation: with both Sheerness and Sittingbourne “essentially ghost towns” with all but a handful of stores permitted to stay open.
“We’re a coastal town, and this really does go to show that the high-street isn’t only about commerce… it’s also about atmosphere and a part of the general appeal of the place,” argued Sherness local Rich Muller on Facebook, alongside an image of the deserted town centre. “High street retailers were already up-against it…I just hope to God that parliament has some tricks up its sleeves to help them out of this.”