English Conversation: The Demise Of The British High Street
Summary: English Conversation
40% of British shoppers wouldn’t care if the high street shops disappeared. Unless the UK high street changes to meet the needs of its customers, its customers will continue to ignore it.
Today’s lesson will focus on English conversation practice and talk about something we all do and that’s shop for things. We will talk about the changing shape of shopping on the British high street and what the future of shopping in the UK might look like.
The British high street is in trouble and the little shops we grew up visiting with our mums and dads are closing their doors and disappearing from the high street.
I know I wouldn’t buy any electronics from a shop, why would I want to disadvantage myself by only looking at one seller's price when I could go online and easily compare 10 or more prices for exactly the same item and just buy the cheapest?
Audio Transcript: English Conversation: The Demise Of The British High Street
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. So welcome to you if you’re one of our regular listeners. You know the value of Adept English and hopefully Adept English is already helping you improve both your understanding and your spoken English. But welcome to you also if you’ve just found us. We are here to help you with your English language learning. If you’re right at the beginning of learning English, then we are not for you. But if you have the basic understanding of English and you have a good vocabulary, but you’re finding it difficult to become fluent – then Adept English is just what you need. So if you can understand most of what I’m saying now, you’ll be OK with Adept English.
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News in the UK and ‘the media’
OK. So we have a new Prime Minister in the UK – let’s see how that goes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to worry about something else besides Brexit in UK politics soon. Let’s hope so. So what about a topic today which is much discussed in the UK, in the British media? So when we say ‘the media’, we mean on television, in the newspapers, online – basically wherever the news, what’s currently happening, current affairs is being discussed.
So a ‘medium’ in this context is the singular – and it means here a ‘means of communication’, a channel through which we communicate. So ‘the media’, in the context of this is just the plural. No one says ‘in the mediums’, but that’s really what we mean, by...when we say ‘in the media’.
What do we mean by ‘the demise of the British high street’?
Anyway – one of the topics which is much discussed in the media, when we’re not arguing about Brexit, is the demise of the British high street. This is a thing, a pattern which is happening all around the world, but the way of describing it, the way of talking about it, is possibly different in your country. So vocabulary first - ‘the demise of the British high street’? Well, ‘demise’ which is spelt D-E-M-I-S-E, means the downfall of something, the downward direction of something. Demise is a noun and if you talk about the demise of something, it generally means well, it was great, it was good, it was powerful, but now it’s becoming much less so. It’s losing its power, its influence. It’s ‘on the way out’, if you like. And the British high street? Well, in most towns and villages in the UK, if you look at the street names, then you’ll notice that the main street in most towns or villages is called ‘the High Street’.
The word high, H-I-G-H is an adjective and as you probably already know, it means raised up. We might talk about the top of a mountain being high – or the top of a tall building being high. I’m not sure and I haven’t been able to find out why the main street in a British town of village is called the High Street – it just usually is – and it’s an ancient term. So it’s a literal meaning – most towns and villages do have a High Street, but we use that term to mean ‘normal shops’, shops in general, the types of shops that are everywhere, commonplace. And it’s also used to mean local businesses – like a local bakery or a butchers or a hairdressing salon. If you can buy something ‘on the high street’, it means that it’s generally available, you can buy it anywhere.
Why is the British high street in trouble?
So the demise of the British high street, is something that many people in this country are worried about. In some town centres, there are lots of unused buildings – they were once shops, but no one wants to use the building any more, because they can’t make enough money out of it to become a business that’s successful. And the reasons for this? Well, some of it is that the charges, what you have to pay in tax and rent on a building used as a shop – those charges are too high. It’s difficult to make money. But the demise of the British high street is happening also because more and more of us do our shopping, our buying online. I’m sure we all do it – I know that I do. It’s just so much easier, so much more choice. I can go onto eBay or Amazon and immediately find exactly what I’m looking for, no matter how unusual it is. Often it would be really difficult and take a lot of time to find these things in a shop. For example, I’ve got an old bed in my loft, which I want to sell – and of course, I’ll do that on eBay. The problem is the fittings, the metal pieces which fit the bed together are missing. Big problem – I can’t sell the bed without these! But two minutes online – and I’ve found and bought the necessary parts. They’re already on their way to me in the post – and I don’t have to go anywhere. Problem solved!
At Christmas, when people in the UK do most of their shopping, it’s just so much easier to go online and find presents for people and just order them, without leaving your chair! The problem is, that this is so much cheaper, the choice is so much greater, it takes so much less time, that I don’t think this is something that anyone is going to stop doing!
What’s happening on the British high street?
So what does this mean for the British high street – and the equivalent, the same thing in all the countries of the world which are affected? Well, politicians in this country worry about this. It’s not good for towns and villages to have empty shops. And there are lots of big brand names which have gone out of business in recent years – Debenhams and Gap are in difficulty for example, and I think there will be many more. So well known businesses that sell clothing and fashion in high street shops are finding it particularly difficult and are going out of business. People prefer to buy online. But I think in the more prosperous areas, in the areas that are more well-off, have more money in the UK, it’s not so much the demise of the British high street, it’s more a change to the British high street. While I’m very happy to book flights, buy holidays, buy clothes, buy books and all kinds of things I need online – there are certain things which I just like to buy in person. There are certain things it’s difficult to buy online. So for example, I don’t usually buy shoes online. I want to try them on, I need to know that they fit my feet! If I want a haircut, that means I have to go in person. If I want things like paper, pens and other stationery – that means all the things that you might use in an office or to do your admin – then those things are usually cheapest bought in person. I also have to go into my local town if I want to use the bank.
How the British high street may survive
So I think there is a place in most people’s lives for their local shops, their local high street. And most of us prefer to use small businesses, small local businesses if we can – rather than making businesses like Amazon or eBay even richer. But it just needs to change. So I see a future where the British high street is full of coffee shops, hairdressers, local bakeries, shoe shops, banks, post offices, cafés, pubs, places where you socialise and meet people. So those essential services that we all need – and the places where we find entertainment, where we go out in the evening. Most people use these types of place. So there’s still very much a need for a high street, but perhaps it will just be made up of particular types of businesses in the future. Let’s hope we can make this change, without it being too painful!
Test yourself on this topic
So that’s a bit of a flavour of some British culture perhaps, when I’m talking about the term ‘the high street’ and issues affecting it. But perhaps also think about these questions. What’s the equivalent of ‘the high street’ in your country? And is it affected by the growth of online businesses? Do you do your shopping online – or do you buy in your local shops? It’s a good exercise perhaps to ask yourself those questions – and practise giving the answers, in English, to yourself! It’s not mad to talk to yourself. It’s a good way of improving your English language.
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Government Says It Want’s To Help But All They Do Is Get In The Way
Local councils and government are not helping, they have increased the costs of running a business/shop on the high street (we call them business rates).
Then the local councils remove all the parking for shoppers who just want to pull up outside a shop and buy something quickly.
Then government punish any drivers who try to park in the high street with parking tickets. This alone stops most people from bothering to “pop into town to get ....”.
Online shops don’t have these difficulties, they pay less tax, they can sell to the world and not just the people who walk into the store. They will be cheaper and for people like me the price of something matters a lot.
If your high street shop cannot compete with:
* Shopping online being so easy
* The laziness of shoppers
* You can get everything on a single site like Amazon
* Next day delivery
* Easy and convenient to return online items
* Online Prices
Then don’t open the doors you won’t survive.