Mark Leftly: There's no need to read last rites for the high street – it will survive

Outlook A cliché sure to boil the ice-cold blood of many a City retail correspondent is that there are "only xx number of weeks/days/hours/minutes to save the high street".

The collapse of Republic, which attempted – but largely failed – to sell crop tops and T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Smashed it" and "Skank out" to 16-25-year-olds, only adds to the sense that the high street is on its death bed. To make matters worse, Blockbuster's administrator, Deloitte, confirmed plans to close an additional 164 of the DVD rental group's stores.

However, the priest never seems to come along and at last read the high street its last rites. Plenty of shops continue to trade well in our local centres after Jessops and HMV went into administration last month; the cores of La Senza and Peacocks still survive after their poisonous branches were lopped off in 2012; while Woolworths' empty stores have been filled by thriving pound shops.

One problem here is semantics. The high street as a whole isn't in peril; shops that have either failed their customers or been loaded up with too much debt under the pre-crisis model of ownership so beloved of buyout barons are the ones in trouble.

Shop chains and the high street are not synonymous, although the failure of even just a handful of the former does indeed blight the latter.

Certainly, job centres don't need another 2,500 people coming through their doors, as will be the case if none of Republic's stores survive. Already, 150 staff at Republic's head office have joined the dole queue.

When this interminable downturn does finally come to an end, there will again be many high streets bustling with all kinds of wares, from the frivolous to the functional. And, no doubt, some of those retailers will ride the boom years with duff, outdated or just plain unpopular products, only to collapse when the cycle turns downwards again.

Even if the high street isn't full of successful individual shops, there will be a shopping centre nearby with, perhaps, boutique stores built up around it. The high street will find a way to survive, though it is certainly fair to say that more impoverished areas will take far longer to return to good health.

Most importantly, a catch-all phrase like "high street" is particularly inappropriate in a sector with as many disparate competitors, of all sorts of geographic shapes and sizes, as retail.

It's not like civil aerospace, where we essentially just see Boeing and Airbus compete: the collapse of just one of those vast empires would, indeed, be a threat to the entire aircraft manufacturing industry.

But, branding is naturally powerful in retail, as we all grow up with these shops. So if one big name goes or is badly hurt, it feels like the entire high street is suffering. This feeling is only emphasised when we see so many people sadly lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

The difference between emotionally detached retail reporters and the rest of us is that they have written about so many failures in recent years that they know that, on the high street at least, there is no such thing as death by a thousand cuts.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence