Is the homogenisation of British high streets a good thing?
From Inverness to Penzance it is Argos to Zara, go to any high street in Britain and you will largely find the same bunch of chain stores lining the road. There are of course advantages to this; you know what you will be able to find anywhere. Chain stores offer cheap prices and familiarity, but does it come at the cost of good customer service? Similar to the way that supermarkets are dominating the food market chain stores drive out independent family owned businesses and destroy the diversity they bring.
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Greater familiarity with shop styles
There is more pressure on the modern family when it comes to how they spend their time than families of the past. People are working more hours, they are taking a more active role in their fitness and generally keep themselves busy. Shopping then, be it for clothes or groceries has become something which needs to be done as quickly as enjoyably possible. The homogenisation of the high street allows for this. People will go out shopping, knowing what they want to buy, knowing the shop they will find it in, and they will be familiar with the product lines of the shop in order to locate what they want. This is a great convenience and benefit to the modern shopper.
Mass production means mass bargains
'Economies of Scale' may have been elabourated over 100 years ago by the founding father of economics, Adam Smith, but the principle is still applicable. The larger the business the more it can produce with its equipment and space, the cheaper the process becomes. In order to sell the increased amount of produce, the prices get cheaper. This leads to more profits, more expansion, greater economies of scale and once more cheaper prices. This is surely the best thing about the homogenisation of the high street. This is especially so in the wake of a recession when people are weary of spending too much of their disposable income.
Security of knowing the brand
Shoppers are all too weary of family chains. People know little about the business and the quality of products they provide. Large corporations that are littered across British high streets are well known and the quality of their produce is known. People build brand loyalty and often feel relived when they
go somewhere new and find their shop of choice. In a recession, we need people to spend their money on the high street in order to create jobs and to avoid a double dip recession; big brand shops are the way to do this. People would be more dubious of buying from unknown, unheard of sellers, and their money would remain in their purse where it is of little use to the economic climate.
Security of large corporation compliance with the law
When buying from a large chain, you know that they are a registered company. This accounts are filed at the Companies House, their profits are marked and their procedures are checked. This gives consumers a great pace of mind. They know they will not be buying imitation brands, they know they will not be buying stolen goods, and they know that their rights will be protected; not only by the law, but also by the brand wanting to maintain its reputation.
Greater capacity for employment
If the high street were full of smaller independent shops, expansion would be unlikely. The small family shop would pass down through the family. Heirs would be set in place. Family members and close friends will be made the employees. However, this does not help the public at large; only the family benefits. With larger corporations, the buying of their produce directly results in the hiring of more local staff. These will not be family members, but people from the local vicinity who applied and went through the appropriate recruitment process. In a recession, we need these employment opportunities to be present.
Everyone dresses the same
Think of the most fashionable street in London; it has to be Brick Lane, and what is this but a collection of small independent shop owners. They design and make their own clothes. All of their clothes are original and there will be very few of them found on the market place. Now think of buying something in a large fashion retailer. How many people will you see wearing that same item? Or if not that same item, a very similar one? Without small fashion retailers, not only are the streets being cloned, but so are the shoppers.
Fashion has always been about following trends and dressing similarly to friends. It is human for peer pressure to come in to play on such outward things such as clothing. This means that it makes sense for there to be some homogenisation of shops.
We would not want the yokles from the far flung reaches of the land to come down to the big city and look primitive (not be up with the latest style) now would we?
Small business are unable enter the market
The homogenisation of the high street means that smaller businesses are unable to enter the market place. Think of all the fashion students, designers who would love the opportunity to have their own shop to make their own clothes and sell them along a high street. Homogenisation means that these people are not able to do so, big companies clog up the high street, they will be better able to pay for the retail shop and will physically prevent small businesses from entering. This leads to a loss of potentially great entrepreneurs developing their skills. This also demotivates such entrepreneurs who may give up their dreams because of the perceived impossibility.
Lack of competition means less innovation
With small businesses unable to enter the market, large retailers can become complacent. If they have clogged the high street and are all trading well with their respective client base, then there is no motivation for them to develop new products or sink some profits into research projects. They know that with relatively few choices on the high street, people will buy the old products, people will not be looking for the new best thing. This means that there will be less work in the fields of technology and research available for highly specialised individuals. It also results in Britain losing its competitive edge in foreign markets.
Towns lose their character
The problem with big brands is that they often force their way onto the high street with a cash injection that entices land lords and they often involve extensive renovation and construction works. This physically makes all town homogenous. Retailers like to show case their brand via choosing the same style shop fronts and layouts across the country to make them instantly recognisable. But in doing this, these retailers are taking away the town's individuality. Whats the problem with this? A lack of inter-Britain tourism. People would rather go abroad and see something different. But if our high streets were not homogenous, then people would be more willing to explore Britain, searching for the quirks in different towns. Currently, the quirks are disappearing – fast.
While of course it is true that most of the time chains will stock exactly the same things and have their shops laid out in a similar way in every store it does not have to be this way. Chain stores could equally attempt to make each shop individual, possibly buy buying and promoting local crafts. This does not happen much at the moment but it could change.
What do you think?