YP Letters: High street has always faced challenges in fight to survive

Shops need to offer a personal service if they're to survive, says reader Chris Ramus. Do you agree?
Shops need to offer a personal service if they're to survive, says reader Chris Ramus. Do you agree?
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From: Chris Ramus, Harrogate.

I READ with interest Rebecca Long Bailey’s article (The Yorkshire Post, October 12), the latest of many on the state of the high street.

As a retired food retailer who spent 40 years at the sharp end of the business, retailing has always been highly competitive. Back in the 1960s and 70s, there were really good businesses – and shops that just got by or went out of business. That’s the same today.

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The pressure hit the high streets in the 70s when supermarkets opened with their ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ mentality. But those early stores were drab and uninteresting compared to today’s supermarkets, a bit like the German discounters are now.

In the last 40 years, supermarkets, in a bid to grab a greater slice of the trade, upped their game substantially. Who would have thought 40 years ago that supermarkets would be open 24/7 and making home deliveries seven days a week?

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Where I live in Harrogate, there were four or five family butchers on every main road. Now, you would be lucky to find six in the whole town. Nail bars/ beauticians and hair salons now out number butchers 10 to one.

That tells us two things. Firstly there’s no shortage of disposable income (yes I know it is Harrogate), and also that we are still prepared to go to locally-owned businesses on the high street (you cannot get your nails done on the internet).

Fast forward to today’s high street. Using butchers as an example, the really good ones have invested in their shops and staff and are doing well enough to be more than just surviving.

The ones that didn’t invest, and hung on to shops that hadn’t been modernised, lost their business to supermarkets and other good butchers. The same is true of greengrocers, bakers, fishmongers and other trades.

In the 1980s and 90s, high street shops could offer a service and expertise that supermarkets couldn’t. The customer was buying into a personal service. Then supermarkets upped their game and trained staff to be helpful and friendly as well providing a better quality product.

When you go to your local shop, you want to be known by your name and treated as a valued customer. A lot of private businesses do still provide that now, but an awful lot don’t and therein lies the problem. Not enough of the private shops have upped their game to make it worthwhile for shoppers to go to them rather than the supermarket or buying on the internet.