What began as a credit crisis in banking quickly spread to other parts of the economy, plunging the UK into recession.
So what's been the impact on a typical High Street? Over the past year we have been visiting Shirley High Street in Southampton to find out.
We picked Shirley because it has the kind of retailers found on shopping streets up and down the country, a mix of independent businesses and multinational chainstores.
So what's the area like? The High Street is a short bus ride away from Southampton city centre and the wider Shirley area covers 3.6 square kilometres and has a population of 13,900 people.
There are 259 business premises in the street, of which 21 are vacant.
Over the past few years the composition of the shops has shifted. Convenience stores like butchers and grocers have closed, and charity shops and cafes have taken their place.
According to figures for March 2007, just over half the businesses were retail and more than a third services.
Three-quarters of the neighbourhood's working population is employed in the education and health sectors, mostly at Southampton General Hospital in Shirley.
Unemployment in Shirley has virtually doubled since the recession started - currently 4.2% of the resident working age population is out of work and claiming benefit, the same as the national average.
Boys born in Shirley between 2002 and 2006 have a life expectancy of 77.3 while girls are expected to live to nearly 83. Both are above the national average.
And the number of pupils passing five GCSEs is 44.6%, which is less than the average for England, 46.8%.
In the last Census, in 2001, less than 5% of people in Shirley classed themselves as black or Asian. Since then, there has been an influx of new communities, mostly from eastern Europe.
In Southampton as a whole, there are 77 nationalities and more than 100 languages are spoken across the city.