The future of high streets is in our hands
It is a great shame that photography chain Jessops has become the latest high street name to go into administration. The business was founded in Leicester in 1935 and has grown to become a nationally recognised retail brand. It employs 2,000 staff across more than 190 stores. About 150 people work at its headquarters in Braunstone Frith and at its stores in Leicester and Loughborough.
The administrators have said that some stores will almost certainly close and this is obviously a difficult and anxious time for the staff.
It is also another bitter blow to the retail sector which saw several well-known chains go into administration last year.
And beyond that there is a question mark over what this series of business collapses signifies for the future of Britain's high streets and for consumers.
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That is because the traditional retail sector is not only under pressure as a result of the economic downturn, but also from the increasing tendency of customers to shop via the internet.
In yesterday's Mercury, Loughborough University retail lecturer Professor Jim Saker explained how this had affected Jessops.
"This is basically a result of them losing the cheaper end of their market to the internet and supermarkets and the business being too big to survive as a specialist camera outlet," he said.
Of course, the internet offers consumers an incredibly convenient way of shopping which delivers the goods to our doors and avoids the problems of parking and queuing. We can browse from the comfort of an armchair and at any time we choose.
However, we might ultimately lose more than we gain if we end up with increasingly deserted high streets, the decline of city and town centres and the loss of jobs that this entails.
We are nowhere near that gloomy scenario right now of course. Shopping centres are still generally busy places.
However, the collapse of Jessops and other high street names reminds us that if we do not use our shops we will lose them.
That would be a great shame and while there is no halting the onward march of technology – and the advantages it brings – one hopes that enough of us will continue to use real shops rather than just virtual ones to ensure the long-term survival of our high streets.