The decline of city centre department stores

Skyscraper

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Nemesis
Just read this excellent article on the decline of city centre department stores. It uses the Sheffield John Lewis as a tragic example:

https://www.theguardian.com/busines...effield?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB

I do think that eventually most department stores will be gone from the majority of city centres. The current biggest ones in Sheffield are Primark, Next and M&S. As well as John Lewis, we also lost Debenhams as a result of the pandemic.

Do you feel the same?
 

rob666

TS Member
Primark and Next are not department stores!
They are large clothes shops.
Likewise M&S isn't either, it does food, clothes and little else.
The retail parks are now what the department stores used to be, we just drive between the departments nowadays.
Used to love a big store, but not been in one for years.
Regional ones are fun as well, Dunnes and Jarrolds are "famous in their region".
 

Thameslink Rail

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The Smiler
I think city centres in general are in decline
Losing M&S, Debenhams, Maplins, BHS and Post Office has just made our high street a bit less interesting. Of course most of the stores replacing them are fast food outlets, betting shops and discounters, I have no idea how they stay in business given how many of them there are.
 

rob666

TS Member
Ha.
Despite the weather warnings, I had to venture out in the car.
My good lady wife has the day off, and we had run out of half price pic.n.mix.
Good old wilko.
Two quid for a big tub.
 

DistortAMG

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Pirates of the Caribbean (DLP)
Wilko is effectivly Woolworths without the music, gaming video and childrens clothes?

Yeah..... in the same way Drayton Manor is Alton Towers without Nemesis, Oblivion, Wicker man and the stately home.

Unfortunately, high streets up and down the country have been in decline for well over a decade now. The way people want to shop has changed massively in the last 10 to 20 years. For whatever reason, high streets have been unable / unwilling to adapt to the changes. This is left them in the dust, as society has moved forward in that respect.

Time and progress waits for no one, this is a great example of that in action.
 

Matt N

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Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
To be honest, as much as I know the pandemic is blamed for the decline of in-person shopping; I think this would have eventually happened anyway.

From my perspective, the pandemic merely accelerated trends that had been indicated for quite a few years beforehand; even pre-COVID, online shopping was massively increasing in prevalence and use, and in-person shopping was going out of fashion somewhat. You only have to look at how brands like Toys-R-Us fell to online shopping; correct me if I’m wrong here, but wasn’t Toys-R-Us’ bankruptcy at least partially caused by the fact that people simply weren’t willing to drive out-of-town to buy toys anymore when they could just buy them online?

Speaking from personal experience; even when I was a young child in the late 2000s and early 2010s, we went to Cribbs Causeway in Bristol to do shopping all the time. But I could possibly count on one hand the number of times that I’ve been to any bricks-and-mortar shopping mall, not just Cribbs, in the last 5 years. I haven’t been to Cribbs Causeway once since COVID hit, and our visit to Clarks Outlet Village on the way home from Plymouth in July 2021 felt like the first time in a while I’d been to a physical shopping mall. Admittedly, this might be because I’m not really a huge shopper in general nowadays, but even my mum’s visit frequency to Cribbs seems to have quite drastically decreased in the last few years (even pre-COVID) compared to when we were kids.

And then the pandemic hit. When even the simple act of leaving the house for an extended period of time became taboo at points, online shopping was our only real choice. For quite a few people (certainly for me, who isn’t a huge shopper), I’d argue that this made them question what the point of in-person shopping was; why traipse to a department store or mall to buy something when you can order it online in one click? I know for some things, in-person shopping still can’t be beaten (for instance, I imagine you’d rarely buy something like a car online), but a lot of things that you used to buy from town centres and malls can be bought far more easily online nowadays. I know some do like bricks-and-mortar shopping, but I think online is simply easier for many people nowadays, and the option that many prefer.

I know that city centres and malls near me certainly seem less vibrant shops-wise than they were a few years ago. Most recently, the Debenhams in Gloucester closed, with its replacement being a new City Campus for the University of Gloucestershire, which is opening in 2023. When we had some time to kill after testing out my uni walking route, me and my dad briefly strolled through Regent’s Arcade in Cheltenham last summer, which my dad said he remembered being a great shopping spot in the 90s and 2000s, and he was stunned at how sparse and empty it was. There were a lot of closed shops; I dare say there were more shops closed than open.
TL;DR: As much as the pandemic is commonly blamed for the decline of in-person shopping, I think it simply accelerated trends that would have happened anyway. Even pre-COVID, in-person shopping was decreasing in popularity while online was increasing, and I think COVID removing in-person shopping for extended periods made quite a few question the point of it for many things.
 

geo4chg

TS Member
As much as the pandemic is commonly blamed for the decline of in-person shopping, I think it simply accelerated trends that would have happened anyway.

As far as I'm aware, COVID hasn't been blamed for the decline of in-person shopping. Over the last 25-30 years the old fashioned High Street has failed to adapt to, first, the rise of the out of town shopping centre, and the secondly, the rise of online. The pandemic has simply accelerated online shopping - there was a large proportion of society that rarely shopped online beyond the occasional thing from Amazon (particularly the case with older generations), but lockdowns meant people had to shop online, and once you did, people realise the convenience of it compared to going to the shops. Ultimately, town centres will have to evolve (and are already doing so) to become destinations for leisure and eating/drinking - things that cannot be replicated online.
 

John_P

TS Member
You had companies like HMV and Virgin/Zavvi completely ignoring online whilst things like Amazon and Play.com just ate away at their core business.

However the one issue with online is I like to browse when shopping, with online it's just log on purchase, close down the page.
 

Matt N

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However the one issue with online is I like to browse when shopping, with online it's just log on purchase, close down the page.
You can browse online, though, can't you? At least, you can on Amazon, anyway; just search for what you want, and then it'll bring up a huge list! And to return to that list without buying anything, you just press back in your browser.

Or are you referring to a different kind of browsing to what I'm thinking of?
EDIT: Sorry @John_P... I know my post sounds a bit condescending, in hindsight. That wasn't my intent. I was only intrigued to know what you meant.
 

John_P

TS Member
No worries Matt.

I meant just randomly walking round the aisles seeing what else there's to buy.

Digging through sale items looking for that one item you now suddenly can't not buy.

When your shopping online you can't just come across something you didn't realise you wanted. You just search for and purchase the things you were initially wanting to buy and nothing else.
 

Jonathan

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Helix <3
I've often found big department stores to be too big and confusing to go around. Even with all the signage and maps in the world, it can be overwhelming to get to the area I'm after, never mind finding the items I want! I sometimes find it easier to buy stuff in slightly smaller shops for this reason...or just order it online instead. :p
 
Like 20 years ago I was still buying Videos as DVD’s were still expensive but now everything is streamed from music to movies.
The only shop other than food I go in now is B&M. The last clothes shop I went in was 2 years ago and that was Burton which has also gone to online shopping.
 

Jonathan

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Helix <3
Food is usually Sainsbury's for me. I know I don't work there any more, but it's a familiarity thing.

If I want clothes, then I usually just go to Next. I know the kind of stuff they usually sell, and their underwear fits me perfectly. :p
 

Matt N

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Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
No worries Matt.

I meant just randomly walking round the aisles seeing what else there's to buy.

Digging through sale items looking for that one item you now suddenly can't not buy.

When your shopping online you can't just come across something you didn't realise you wanted. You just search for and purchase the things you were initially wanting to buy and nothing else.
Ah, sorry… I thought you meant something totally different!

In that case; yes, I’ll admit that that sort of spontaneous shopping is much harder to do online, as the retailers tend to either bring up results based on what you’ve searched or bring up results based on your past activity on that site.

One common complaint about online things in general compared to their offline counterparts (not just shopping; I’ve also heard it said about on-demand TV compared to terrestrial TV, for instance) is that they remove the potential for spontaneous finds that you didn’t necessarily know appealed to you, which I guess removes some of the fun for some people.
 

Jonathan

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Helix <3
I have to agree with regard to spontaneous shopping online, Matt. I feel like I only go looking online if I have an idea of what I want, and I usually do (other than my present problem in finding a monitor for my new PC, but that's another story). If I find anything else, then that's a bonus. I'm generally the same with in-person shopping as well, but that can be somewhat overwhelming at times, especially if I end up going into an unfamiliar shop...or a familiar one where they've changed the layout yet again. Yay, autism! :p Worst thing for me is when I pop in to Next or something just to get some new underwear (exactly what kind depends on what I fancy at that time), and they have plenty of choice. Just not what I want in my size - they'll have it in all the others but not mine. Which is frustrating, given I usually go for medium. But I digress. :p I don't usually like going physically shopping just to browse and see on the off chance if there's anything I may fancy, as I find that way of shopping can be quite mentally draining. You'd think on that basis that department stores would be ideal for me, but no - I've explained why further up the thread.
 

pluk

TS Member
I really don't understand online clothes shopping. There is no way of telling from a photo what something feels like, how it's cut, how it fits. It just seems bizarre to me, and much more trouble than it's worth. The people I know who regularly clothes shop online seem to spend more time fannying around returning stuff than they ever would have if they just popped to the shops in the first place.
 

geo4chg

TS Member
I really don't understand online clothes shopping. There is no way of telling from a photo what something feels like, how it's cut, how it fits. It just seems bizarre to me, and much more trouble than it's worth. The people I know who regularly clothes shop online seem to spend more time fannying around returning stuff than they ever would have if they just popped to the shops in the first place.

I tend to agree, clothes and shoes are two things that it’s far better to shop in person. The only clothes I buy online generally is jeans as I know the exact size and lot no I like from Levi’s and you can tend to find them cheaper online than you can in store.
 

Jonathan

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Helix <3
I really don't understand online clothes shopping. There is no way of telling from a photo what something feels like, how it's cut, how it fits. It just seems bizarre to me, and much more trouble than it's worth. The people I know who regularly clothes shop online seem to spend more time fannying around returning stuff than they ever would have if they just popped to the shops in the first place.
That's a very valid point. I try to only buy clothes online if I'm pretty certain they'll fit me, and I don't buy more than I know I'll need. Avoids quite a bit of hassle in the unlikely event I end up having to return anything.
 
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