Today Weekdays 6-9am and Saturdays 7-9am

  • News Feeds
Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Thursday, 4 August 2011 06:53 UK
High street questionnaire

Shoppers walk past row of shops on Kilburn High Road

The Today programme is investigating the fate of the UK's high streets, and we asked for your help.

It has been a difficult time for the shops in Britain's city centres. Not only has the ease of online shopping persuaded people to stay at home, but the recession and stagnation of the UK economy has left people with less money to spend when they do hit the shops.

Woolworths was one of the first casualties of the recession when it went bust in 2008. Since then, a steady stream of store stalwarts have vanished from our town centres. Zavvi and Borders have gone, HMV is shrinking and Habitat are closing all of their shops outside of London.

The government is also worried, and has commissioned Mary Portas to undertake an independent review to see what can be done. She told the Today programme in May that the loss of shops was creating "practical ghost towns" in town centres.

So why is the high street in such a mess? Is the British high street worth saving? Have our shopping habits changed so dramatically that the high street is now obsolete?

We asked you to fill out a questionnaire letting us know how much you used your local high street and what could be done to make it thrive, and have used your answers to inform today's programme.

Many of you recommended we look at Gloucester Road in Bristol as an example of a high street which was thriving despite tough economic times, so we sent reporter Nicola Stanbridge to find out its secret of success.

One resounding message from those who answered the questionnaire was that the high street was still very important in people's lives, with many of you reporting visiting your local shops on a daily basis.

Locally sourced produce and independent, specialised shops - bakers, butchers, and hardware shops - ranked highly in your wish lists.

Also important were shops with character - selling antiques, mementoes, second hand books, as well as concerns over increasing numbers of pound shops and charity shops.

And over and above the choice of products, friendly and knowledgeable staff were seen by many as a big draw. That and decent parking.

But there were also many of you, although in the minority of the questionnaire respondents, who had embraced the internet age and only rarely visited their high street - some as little as once or twice a year.

Read a selection of your comments below:

For me it must be an adventure and Guildford always is - I probably go once every six weeks to get something specific.
Laura Notley, Woking

Independent butcher, baker and greengrocer are key. A fishmonger is a great addition but not essential. At least two pubs and a post office will also help.
Robert Harvey, Hampton Hill, Middlesex

Noise, noise and yet more noise, in other words -music. This is the reason I have virtually stopped shopping in town centres. I now shop on-line - in peace. I save on parking and petrol and screaming kids! Bliss!
Glenda Wooster, Liskeard

The world is changing and to have a mix of residential, cafe, small shop is more realistic than trying to have every town as a shopping centre.
Jo Gutmann, Warminster

Eventually every town will look the same and there will be no pleasure in visiting another town. Bring back individuality.
Carol freeman, Woodbridge

We have a great cheese shop, deli and wine shop, Ice creams posh frocks, kids' stuff and gift shops. If it's a nice place to be, a meeting place with young and old across a spectrum of society then the high street can survive. Probably Whitstable is a bit special.
Jacqueline Sirota, Whitstable, Kent

Unless there is a decent variety of chains and indies offering a depth and breadth of everyday and 'luxury' items there will be no high street. Then online prices go up and everyone loses out. It is not rocket science.
Ruth Jones, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

A high street needs a suitably large and wealthy customer base to support independent retailers. The less wealthy tend to be less discerning, and will buy from the cheapest provider, rather than intentionally buying local (there are no doubt exceptions to this).
Ross Clark, Johnstone, Scotland

The major issue is a local population which is willing to use the high street instead of supermarkets. until we cut back the number of supermarkets high streets will continue to decline to the determent of all of us.
Adrian Mantle, Bristol

I look at high streets as neighbourhood/node centres, rather than as destinations such as Oxford St, so see them as more broadly usable
Lisa Taylor, London

A real mix without the ubiquitous large chain stores dominating and the ghastly supermarket. Some thought could also be given to the buildings and shop fronts themselves (too much hideous 1960's architecture) and pedestrianisation is paramount. It should be a place you enjoy coming to with a relaxing atmosphere - not somewhere you avoid or really come to only when you have to.
Carole Shattock, Guildford, UK

North St is the best I've ever come across in UK. A mix of necessity shops eg Post Office, Hardware, Chemist, Social eg cafe's bars and cultural eg Theatre, Music. North St has all of these. So I can socialise, be entertained and surprised within 5 minutes of my front door.
Rosie Tomlinson, Bristol

Family businesses where staff are helpful and knowledgeable and stock a wide range of goods, not just bubble packed sameness.
Ian Davidson, Bishop's Stortford, England

A successful high streets need a good mix of major chain stores and still having room for individual shops which give personal service from people who know what they are talking about and who sell appealing products which can not be purchased anywhere else on the high street.
Kay Devey, Cannock, Staffs

In order to be successful High Streets need a degree of stability and local businesses which understand their customers. Ashtead High Street has a good selection of local shops and the village itself has three butchers and a fishmonger.
Keith Mallinson, Epsom Surrey

Ajibola Lewis (right) with her daughter Police custody 'scandal'
A charity calls for a public inquiry into the number of people who die while being held by police.

Christmas tree Mass Observing the season
The spirits of Christmases past, as seen by the British people

Children selling low-value goods at the roadside are a familiar sight in Liberia Catch-22
Evan Davis examines Liberia's attempt to rebuild its economy following the recent civil war.


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific