The high street hit headlines in January for declining sales and rising rents. The media has branded the Great British High street in crisis. Costs are, largely, too high for the high street to continue in the way it has done previously. However, it is worth considering the future of Britain’s major retailers and, indeed, how students may play a role in their rescue.
Online sales nearly account for 20% of all shopping from high street retailers. This means more warehouse space and less high street storefronts. Students are extremely guilty of this. The ease of companies like ASOS and Pretty Little Thing make it insanely easy to press a button and have a ball gown delivered for the next day.
On the other hand, it is this rise in convenience fashion which may save, at least some, members of our illustrious high street. The rise of online megastars like ASOS demonstrates that the appetite for clothes and shopping remains. There are two ways in which students can shift business in their favour. Firstly, it is in making conscious decisions which don’t drastically affect our lives but will have a wider impact on local business and high street communities. Secondly, we can think about the ethics behind our fashion choices. Our concern should not just be with the loss of our ‘high street’ brands. We should also be thinking about what kind of brands we want to see represented, and how our shopping habits can help promote these brands. The average person spends over £1000 a year on new clothes, therefore by harnessing our power as collective buyers we are able to make a difference.
Some responsibility can be foisted onto students for this. As consumers we have both the ability and responsibility to decide how we consume fashion. By focusing our efforts on ease, it is entirely possible to reclaim the high street. For example, the tide of ethical fashion is rising. ASOS and H&M have both released their own ethical ranges, which seek to offer things at a slightly higher price with guaranteed transparency on garment origins. This gives consumers, and us as students, the chance to control what we buy.
It is time to realise that students do play a considerable role as consumers and we do have the power to prevent the decline of the high street. By opting for in-store delivery with the ease of returning things personally, there are ways we can support local shop fronts. In other ways, we must also emphasise the type of clothes that we want to buy. By rejecting fast fashion, we are able to make room for newcomers in the game. Independent ethical brands are popping up across the UK and this is in no small part due to how consumer advertise their desires for clothes. This allows us to direct our purchases, both in what we actually purchase and how.
So, next time you’re thinking about paying that extra £3 for delivery: have a pause. Think about pressing ‘click and collect’. In doing so, you save the delivery to your house, you have the ease of trying things on and maybe, just maybe, you might play a role in keeping our high streets open for business while also helping to create a more ethical fashion industry.