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Burger Bars and Barber Shops: The future of our High Streets

Dave Harvey | 17:52 UK time, Thursday, 2 December 2010

I'm walking down the Fishponds Rd in Bristol, just by Lodge Causeway. If you're feeling hungry, there are plenty of takeaways.

Kebab shop on Fishponds Road, Bristol

Six in fact, out of 33 shops.

But buy your own food? Some fresh chicken, a bag of spuds and some broccoli? Forget it. The old greengrocers has gone, replaced by the "Family Kebab House". There was a bakery too once, long gone now.

What's happened to our local High Streets?

As luck would have it, I've got the just the man with me. Ned Cussen grew up round here, and now trades shops for one of Bristol's busiest agencies, King Sturge.
"Neighbourhood shopping like this has been most affected," he tells me.

Ned Cussen, Property Expert

"And this street is typical: takeaways, hair dressers, service industries. It's actually a fairly narrow range of businesses that can still work in shops like that."

And look at that. Right next door is a hairdressers, "New Look" Indian style threading and beauticians. In fact, there are eight different ways to get your hair done here, all the way through to Remo's Turkish Shaves.

"It's quite simple," Ned points out, "you can't get your hair cut on the internet."

That, of course, is the threat. This weekend is reputed to be a frenzy of online Christmas shopping. Real shopkeepers, hoping their customers will brave the freezing weather, expect the worst. Out of town centres and big malls are the other, much documented, threat. Some say our local High Streets are in terminal decline.

"Well, step in here," suggests Ned with a smile.

He takes me into a sport shop, started in the sixties by Bristol Rovers star Doug Hillard. Doug was Ned's boyhood hero, "a Doug Hillard free kick was a wonder to behold," he smiles.

Inside, we meet Doug's widow, Janet. They've survived four decades of retail revolutions. And as we look round, it is clear why.

Janet Hillard

You can buy a single stud. Trophies with your friendly league club logo embossed on them. They'll even embroider or print team strips.

"Most sports shops are actually selling fashion, when you look at them," Ned explains. "The big ones at the malls, they might do you a Manchester United shirt, but not Mangotsfield United like you can get here!"

In fact, Doug Hillard's shop is now a service business too. They're selling expertise, attention to detail, and printed caps.

Wander down your local high street, and play the game. Count the number of shops selling things. Then count the service firms. And I bet the shops that are surviving are really selling a service too.

On Monday we'll get some new research analysing which shops are closing, which are opening, and where. I wonder if Ned and I are on the money here?



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