What’s happened to the high street?

Is there anything you can’t get online? You can buy a toaster, a poster, you could even buy a boat. Although I'm not sure you’d get next day delivery. My point is, whatever you want, you can get it online. So where does that leave the good old-fashioned high street? Well, it doesn’t, in reality, there’s not much high street to speak of. Of course, we can still pop into the shops, in fact, we can spend all day milling about the shops. But over the years, the high street has seen fewer grand openings and more ‘everything must go’..ings. So where does that leave businesses? Does it mean they’ve gone bust? Or have they just moved online? 

If you have been shopping in central London over the past 10 years, you will have most likely found yourself in Topshop, the mothership as I called it. Multiple floors of multiple stalls selling their wares and what have yous. The front of the shop was often lined with dads, who had decided to let their wives and daughters get on with it while they people-watched, laden with shopping bags collected throughout the day. I’m not sure whether the coordinates of Oxford Street’s Top shop fall directly under a hole in the Ozone layer, but it somehow managed to adopt its own climate. Upon entrance, you were hit by a wall of hot air, much like that first step off the plane when you land at your destination. I’m not sure what’s more exciting, heading to an all-inclusive for a week in the sun or spending hours sifting through clothes and trying on shoes. It was a sad day when the doors to the mothership closed and we were no longer met with the bright lights and big smiles of eager shoppers as we exited the Oxford Circus underground. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Soon enough we were hit with the news that Topshop was coming to a ‘screen near you’. The fashion retailer was bought by Asos in early 2021. 

Asos is an online fashion powerhouse. Selling own brand products as well as many other fashion and lifestyle brands. Founded in the 2000s, Asos has developed a large and loyal customer base that increases by the day. You can buy clothes for any occasion. Going to the gym? Asos has it all, from Nike to Under Armour. Black tie event? You can buy a gown, heels and a crystal chain choker to match. Need to buy a gift for your partner? Asos has a lengthy gift section for him and her. 

But why did Topshop literally up shop and leave? To the average shopper, Topshop ranked high on the pecking order. Always busy, however often understaffed, it seemed as if it was here to stay. It came as a shock to many when it announced its closing in 2019. Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t making enough money, but striking a deal with Asos meant it could live on through our screens. Powerhouses like Pretty Little Things, House of CB, and Boohoo have proved you don’t need a physical shop to be successful. This doesn’t mean that if you go online, you are guaranteed success, it takes time, patience, and a lot of money. Sadly, due to Covid, many businesses that went bust during the pandemic have been unable to reopen due to lack of funds. 

Butler & Wilson, a popular jewellery company with over 50 years in the industry, felt the effects of Covid and as a result, closed down its store on South Molton Street. This was a tough call for business owner Simon Wilson, but it was the best thing to do for the company at the time. Understanding that things may not get better, at least not for a while. However, all is not lost, his flagship store on Fulham Road brings in both new customers and loyal customers all eager to meet Simon, a man who has made a name for himself in the fashion and jewellery world. An eccentric man, with marvellous ideas and a creative eye. The Butler & Wilson website gives you access to online costume jewellery, with new designs coming out each month, every piece is more outrageous than the last. There is something for everyone. This is perhaps why Wilson has been so successful throughout the years. Catering for the many and not for the few, famous for bringing glamour to the masses. Having built a loyal following over the past 50 years, Wilson feels hopeful for the future. Although his business has had a few setbacks over recent years, there is light at the end of the tunnel, the only problem is, no one knows how long the tunnel is. 

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