Are micro high streets the future?

It’s 2021, we’re quickly coming to the end of the first quarter of the 21st century and our high streets are going through an evolution. Throughout the media industry we hear alarm bells ringing about the demise, desolation and disappearance of our high streets. “Save our high streets!”, “Stop the decline!”, “Support local business!”, are the cries of the many as we slip inevitably towards empty barren pedestrian zones that were once a hive of bustling activity. What’s to be done, and are high streets actually “declining”?

Why the supposed decline?

Humanity is all about convenience and habit. Everything we do is designed to make our lives more convenient. It’s only recently, with the general uptake of online selling, that the high street has started to suffer. We’ve learned that the things we want can now be brought directly to us, so it’s inconvenient to have to go somewhere to get them. We see it almost as a waste of time.

If it’s getting more and more difficult to bring the people to the high street, let’s bring the high street to the people.

Are high streets actually just evolving?

We think so. It’s natural to think that if something isn’t the same as it was before that it’s declining, but that’s how evolution works, and evolution doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Change is always a little bit scary because it moves us towards an unknown, but that can bring so many positive opportunities to make something better.

What is a micro high street?

Micro high streets are a scaled down version of a high street. They are made up of perhaps 4 or 5 permanent kiosk-style outlets that we put as a group in key locations throughout our community. They act as micro focal points for the immediate neighbourhood and provide opportunities for peripheral communities to interact with each other in a different type of social atmosphere.

Socialising the high street

Are our high streets actually social places? We seem to limit our opportunities to socialise our high streets, and that might be due to the amount of space we devote to them. They’re actually quite tight spaces considering what they’re supposed to provide for us.

Night time activities

One of the biggest problems with our high streets is how early the majority of the businesses on them have closed in the past. Night shopping and night markets are very prominent in other countries and cultures, but for some reason it’s not very common here. It’s not that we don’t like to do it, it’s just that we don’t do it.

Variety is the spice of life

One of aspects that really limits a high street traditionally is that the offerings almost never change. We designed them essentially to be storage outlets for specific things. We know what’s there, there’s no surprise.

Helping businesses to be more flexible and agile

For a lot of businesses, being forced into a fixed location is actually counter-productive for them. Flexibility and agility for a business is crucial to their survival.

Reducing market research costs

Starting a new business can be expensive, especially if you’re planning to rent a bricks-and-mortar location. It’s very much a sink or swim situation, and can cause people to lose all of their savings or pick up big debts. We know that it doesn’t matter how much research we do for a business, we’ll never really know its chances until we put it into action, and by that time it could already be too late.

Providing opportunities for alternative organisations

It doesn’t all have to be about selling products in a micro high street. If you’ve been to the Royal Arcade in Boscombe you may have seen the science shop in action. They often do experiments outside the shop to engage parents and their children as they pass by. It’s educational and fun.

Not your average social enterprise