Shops vs cafés: the changing face of our high street

Posted on 21st December 2017 | in Community


Forester’s clothes shop may be replaced by another eaterie

Our high street is changing right before our eyes. In the last few years alone, we’ve seen more food related ventures opening, but also the closure of some of the more traditional shops: household goods and clothes.

A plan to change a clothes shop into another eatery drew a torrent of comments on our Facebook page, mostly in the vein of ‘not another café!’

In the same week, a report commissioned by BBC Radio4’s You and Yours programme stated that in the last five years, around 1000 shops had closed in the twelve original Portas Pilot towns. These were towns who received a share of £1.2million from the government to help rejuvenate their high streets.

Mary Portas herself said “We’re spending our money on eating out, socialising and wellbeing. Therefore we should be building the right places and spaces for the future to cater for how people want to live.”

So Amble is not alone. Hairdressers, beauty and health therapists, tea rooms, restaurants, pubs are all still on offer, and, if you notice, these are services which can’t be bought on the internet.

“I am concerned Amble is going to turn into Tynemouth’s high street, all wine bars, restaurants and the odd gift shop.” said Ann Burke, chair of Amble Business Club. “Or shopping habits have changed so much in a relatively short time. It’s a mixture of the internet and family trips away for shopping.”

Richard Wardman, co-owner of 42 Queen Street agreed. “We’ve definitely noticed a difference in people’s spending habits. People are much more savvy about spending their money. But it’s tourists and people who’ve just moved to the area who really appreciate the street. They’ll say how full of independent shops it is. People who’ve come from the Midlands and down South really value what we’ve got.”

So it seems many people value the independent shops in Amble, but do they use them enough?

“Shopping is now more of a leisure activity,” said Julia Aston, director of Amble Development Trust. “Getting your nails or hair done, or stopping for something to eat, these are all things you can’t get off the internet. And unless people use the businesses they’ve got now, that change will continue. It wasn’t that long ago the night time economy in Amble was just fish and chips or the pubs. With the standard of restaurants we have now, that is also changing.”

Andrew Gooding, manager of the Northumberland Seafood and Hatchery said “I think visitors come to Amble for a look around; they’re not necessarily looking to buy things. They have a wander around, and stop for a coffee and something to eat. How many locals work in Amble? Because I think people tend to buy things where they work.”

Paul Forester, owner of Foresters clothes shop on Queen Street told The Ambler that although the shop may close, they were launching an online shop selling school uniform:

“People have got to embrace change,” he said.

Anna Williams