Why high streets don’t need shops to survive | Simon Jenkins

Shoe shops and banks may be dying out but the ‘experience economy’ offers a future for town centres. They must grasp it

Is it really goodbye shop? This has been another terrible month for retailing. Monday’s figures show March footfall down 6% on last year, and almost 9% down in high streets. Clothing is in freefall, down 20%. My two local high streets – one rich, one poor – both look as if they’ve been hit by the plague, with naked windows pockmarked by “For Sale” signs.

Toys R Us, BHS and Maplin have gone. We hear of closures from Mothercare, Homebase, House of Fraser, even M&S. Local data shows a net 1,700 shops shut last year. Paula Nickolds of mighty John Lewis said last week that this is her “toughest time in 25 years in the industry”, adding of her own business, “we need to reinvent”.

Related: UK retailers see 6% drop in shopper numbers in March

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