It’s January 2019, another Christmas has flown by and another New Year’s Eve was spent getting heavily intoxicated. Despite Christmas being over, we are still being assaulted by the doom and gloom of another dreadful year for the High Street. It wouldn’t be the festive season without the desperate newsreel arguing that the sad, inevitable decline of the High Street is something that can, and should, be stopped. Earlier this year the government announced plans to support the High Street with a number of tactics designed, one assumes, to increase the profit margins of shop-owners. With a limited understanding of economics, I am going to get to the bottom of what ‘saving the High Street’ actually means.
Firstly, why does the High Street need supporting? If you go on SaveTheHighStreet.org and click on the 2018 Manifesto, you will notice a long list of veiled statements which suggest that the High Street is suffering at the hands of new technology, unfair competition from larger companies, and the ease and simplicity of buying goods online.
Basically, Amazon is killing the High Street. Rather than 18 lines of veiled, defeatist comments, the organisers of Save the High Street should have simply put: Amazon is killing us. And we are all to blame, I think my whole family has exclusively bought Christmas presents from Amazon this year. The only thing we didn’t buy from Amazon was the Christmas tree and if we could have we would have. So, whether you think he is an alien reptilian or not, this man is the closest thing we have to Father Christmas.
Admittedly, Bezos is not the familiar overweight and bearded Saint Nick we wanted but he is the Saint Nick we deserve. The Machiavellian, tax-dodging billionaire with his bald head and estimated net worth of $165 billion dollars requires no sleigh and no reindeer to deliver us our gifts. Indeed, on Christmas day Bezos is not flying around the earth and has instead worked his elves into the ground in the preceding weeks to ensure Christmas isn’t a last minute rush to the shops. No-one likes a hastily prepared Christmas, do they?
I am going to argue, perhaps unpopularly, that we should not be saving the High Street. We should be actively encouraging the demise of the High Street. What the hell has the High Street ever done for us? The economy should work organically, we shouldn’t be making efforts to support parts of our economy that are just not doing well. So, let me tell you what it means when the government says it is going to support the High Street. It means that, in some way or another, the government is going to artificially give shops on the High Street an advantage over Amazon. What does this mean for us? Well, it could mean that the government puts increased restrictions on Amazon leading to higher prices for us, the consumer. I’m not an economist though, I’m just speculating.
What I don’t have to speculate about is the recent announcement by the Welsh Assembly that an extra £23 million will be given to local businesses in order to help them weather hard times. It is admirable, it really is. However, the High Street is not going to miraculously recover, it will simply plod along through another storm. Who is paying for the High Street to plod along? Well the taxpayer, obviously.
The High Street is dying, the signs are all there. The government outlined its plan to promote the renovation of houses above shops on the High Street, presumably, to decrease the cost of rent for shopkeepers and so increase profit margins for shops by reducing overheads. Understandable. Clearly though, the High Street is a sinking ship and we should vanquish sentimental values and feelings we hold over it. It should not be pitied.
The campaign to Save the High Street assumes that the lack of a High Street will cause considerable social disruption because it is the High Street where we gain meaningful social interaction. Now, this is consumerism gone mad, in what planet do we live on where meaningful social interactions with other human beings come from spending money on goods?
It is not my intention to be callous, I am aware that the livelihoods of thousands of shopkeepers are being threatened by big companies like Amazon. However, we live in an age of technological innovation that does not look like slowing down. I predict that in 50 years time there will be no more taxi drivers as driverless cars sweep the market. What about cashiers? How many jobs will we lose to technological innovation? This is only a bad thing if you make it a bad thing. I, for one, am optimistic about this wave of technological innovation as it seems as though all the boring, dreary jobs are being swept away. Who knows what they will be replaced with, or whether they will be replaced at all, but society as a whole will have to adapt to the new situation.
So, if like me, you scorned the stress and bustle of the High Street and instead searched leisurely through the Amazon website for that perfect, affordable gift for a loved one, don’t feel bad. Lizard-man Jeff Bezos and his underpaid Amazon elves provide the Christmas experience we have all been dreaming about. Don’t fight the future of Christmas, embrace it.
Written by Finn Grant