This summer, the National Federation of Womens’ Institutes voted to campaign for our High Streets – to support them, help develop them, and to slow down the decline of this vital public space.
This is not a campaign of nostalgia – the days of tripping along the High Street every day to pick up groceries are long gone in an age of vegetable boxes, grocery deliveries and sundries ordered online. However, the High Street occupies a vital space in our communities, and local economies, and ought to be supported.
From the NFWI’s Campaign Action Pack:
“Why does this matter?
The challenges facing our High Streets and town centres reach to the heart of our communities. Healthy High Streets are important for a number of reasons:
- Diversity: When the shops close, footfall decreases. And that’s when the services on the high Streets – the hairdressers, the GPs, the banks and libraries – start to lost their custom too. Before you know it, you have a vicious cycle of falling numbers of shoppers and store closures that goes on and on.
- Places for people: High Streets have been the centre of our communities for centuries. They are a shared space – not only to run your errands but to meet friends, socialise and learn new skills. If the High Street loses its attractiveness, our shared spaces disappear, and it’s hard to get them back.
- Healthy local economies: Money spent on your High Street or town centre is far more likely to stay in the areas with benefits for the community and local supply chains. Our High Streets and town centres are underpinned by local retail that provides goods and services that can help your area thrive with local jobs, better facilities and investment.
- Local food: The erosion of the igHighHigh Street places real pressure on local food systems; in many areas the dominance of supermarkets, which often sell little in the way of locally produced food, means we’re gradually losing sight of our connection with food, with where it was grown, reared and farmed. This can have negative implications for the viability of local networks of producers and suppliers.”
What would that support look like? In London, we have a multitude of High Streets, from the posh shopping districts to the altogether more prosaic corner-shops, and everything in between, supporting diverse communities. Similarly the approaches to supporting the High Street are wide-ranging, moving from highlighting parking and zoning problems with the local council to buying from your local grocer’s or pop-up shop. We will be looking at practical ways we can support our High Streets in London and letting you know what can be done!
In the meantime, here are some simple ideas to get you started:
- Spend a weekend day on your High Street – bet you didn’t realise it had so many shops, or services, that would be interesting to you! There are also often websites that will promote your local High Street and its events, so have a quick Google and sign up for newsletters, so you’ll never miss a pop-up market, foodie event or community event again;
- Have a think before ordering online. Yes, there will be times when it’s simpler and easier to order from Amazon, or Tesco, but there will also be times when you can wait until you can get to the shops for that yarn, that book, that amazing pair of shoes. Plus, in many cases, you can order online to have products sent straight to your nearest branch (at home, or work) and you can pick things up in person – John Lewis and Waterstones are two shops who offer this service.
- Don’t forget our Day of Action! The 16th of September we will be getting together online to support our favourite shops, by taking a photo of them, their proprietors or your favourite product and then Tweeting or FaceBooking that photo with a short explanation of why this shop is so very awesome. Use the hashtag #soshighstreets to get it picked up nationally with other WI members!