How many of us question the rationale of actually spending time going to the High Street, when the internet serves us so well?

That is a question that many of us will be asking ourselves as lockdown eases.   Retail has certainly changed since the pandemic, and if our High Streets are to survive they must do the same.

I had cause to visit Southend Town Centre as non-essential retail re-opened their doors,  there wasn’t a parking space to be found. Nationally it is reported that footfall in our High Streets in the first week of ‘normal trading’ was up 648% on the same week last year. We were, of course,  in complete lockdown a year ago,  so that shouldn’t be a surprise. However it is good to know that shoppers are deserting their ipads and returning to the High Street.

Perhaps an indicator or just how difficult High Street retail has become is the fact that outline planning consent has been obtained in respect of the Eastgate Shopping Centre , Basildon to demolish 50% of the existing 750,000 sq.ft. of retail space to provide a 2800 residential led scheme.  Some 150,000 sq.ft. of space would remain as retail, workspace, leisure and beverage.   Whilst schemes such as this could be seen as bad news for retail, conversely they should provide  leaner and more vibrant town centres. If the Eastgate proposal happens, and I am sure that there will be others of a  similar ilk,  we can only hope that they will bring much needed new life to our town centres.

Diane Tait

Commercial Manager