Leading Article: Consumers will profit from the rise and fall of our high-street titans

THIS IS the week that the country finally woke up to the crisis in our high streets. There have been disappointing company results, fears of increased competition, and rumours of takeovers. Familiar names such as M&S, Sainsbury and Boots continue to turn in poor share performances. Yet no one should be surprised; even a cursory trawl round the aisles at these old favourites reveals a general dowdiness and a lacklustre line of goods that would dispirit the most nostalgic customer.

But few are nostalgic these days. Are the clothes at M&S a little drab? Try the new Gap. Or pop into the new-look Tesco - it sells computers these days alongside the fresh food, and can even help you with your banking. It is a commonplace that the speed of change in every field is ever greater. Successful companies must continually reinvent themselves. M&S stole a march on their competitors a few years ago with their move into ready- made dinners; but they failed to follow that up with more innovation. The result has been stagnation.

It is true in every field of human endeavour that those who rest on their laurels are soon outpaced by the young and fleet, but retail shopping is an even crueller world for those who would seek to rely on a stable, reliable pattern. Once the formula was simple. "Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" was all you needed to know. But that truism belonged to the world before fashion. With the growth in disposable income shopping is no longer a dull necessity; it is almost a competitive sport.

Jeans are no longer just jeans; they are Armanis or Calvin Kleins (and even then the cut and fabric must be exactly right). Once you had to be wealthy in order to be a snob about where you bought your clothes, and the fancy label was kept discreetly under cover. Now, the dictates of fashion decree that the labels of your clothing blare out from pocket and shirt-front, and few are the souls who wish that label to be "St Michael".

There are several commercial responses to the changing place of shopping in modern life. One is to combine the mania for fashionable names with the age-old human desire for a bargain. This is the trail blazed in America by Filene's Basement of Boston and now taken up with great success by Matalan, the retail sensation in the north of England. Wal-Mart, the much- spoken-about Arkansas-based retail giant that is poised to invade Europe, has an intriguing variation on this theme; their stores are an Aladdin's emporium of every kind of retail product, all jumbled together, at rock- bottom prices. The apparent randomness of the assortment acts as a stimulus to examining what's on offer.

Another path, taken by shops in high-rent areas such as Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and London's Bond Street, is to make shopping itself a luxurious day out. The same trick is performed, at varying price levels, in shopping malls throughout the country. Now that the Internet must be added to the mix, it is apparent that home shopping, with its fast and easy comparisons of price and availability, will make new inroads into the high street.

But there is no reason to fear for British shopkeepers in this high-speed, competitive world. Just look at the excitement over Knutsford, the shell company formed by Archie Norman, of Asda fame, and a few buddies. The mere hint that they might bid for M&S or Sainsbury launched a stock-market bubble that took Knutsford shares to astronomical heights.

Whatever happens, all of this ferment can only add to the joy of shopping. M&S and Sainsbury may disappear, but only their shareholders need lament. The goods will go on getting delivered, and on present trends those goods are likely to be cheaper, better and more fun.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada