Wednesday, 21 July 2010

High Street blues

You can take the economic temperature of a town by walking down its High Street.
In Stourbridge, like elsewhere, where once there were butchers and grocers, then estate agents and building societies, charity shops now dominate. But rarely have I seen so many in so small a town centre as here.
There was a Cat protection charity, a Dog protection charity, another one especially for 'Staffies' (Staffordshire Bull Terriers), one for the old, one for the young (Barnardos), one for those with cancer (Marie Curie), another for the local hospice and the familiar fare of Scope, British Heart Foundation and Oxfam. That's ten - and I might have missed one or two as I kept stumbling on more in every street.
Then there were the usual cheap 'n cheerful stores - Wilkinsons, a latterday Woolworths in its variety and value, a local version of the pound store theme, an indoor market mainly selling dubious end-of-line sportswear as favoured by those who practise sports unlikely to feature in the Olympics, Somerfield, that rather depressing supermarket that seems no less drear since being taken over by the Co-op, Iceland - home of 'value' frozen goods and another frozen goods store promising even more 'value'.
Plus Cash Converters, the 21st century pawn shop, a gambling arcade and a large betting shop. All topped off with a big Wetherspoons pub, already holding a moderate crowd of drinkers at 10.30 am.
Reading this economic thermometer I think that, sadly, I would pronounce Stourbridge as in the grip of an almost irreversible decline.

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