Star comment: Welcome steps back into the High Street again

Our love affair with online shopping may have peaked.

A new report says we’re falling out of love with the internet and falling back into love with the High Street. If that’s true, many will welcome it.

The internet has changed our habits, but the absence of the human touch, of good customer service and of a friendly face who will advise and listen remains the key failing for online retailers. Customer service is frequently poor, rules of engagement can be specious and while it’s easy to buy it can be all-too-difficult to return.

The working conditions are poor for some of those employees who supply the internet trade and work their socks off to provide expedited deliveries for online goods. Many work in hothouse conditions where pay is poor and where tough targets are expected on an hourly basis.

If the move away from High Streets has peaked, we can look to the benefits of shopping in physical shops and also to the delights of such events as Birmingham’s German Market, which has returned for Christmas after a Covid break.

The best town and city centres now have more reasons for people to visit than just shopping. Restaurants and family attractions make a day at the shops all the more rewarding, rather than it just being a chore.

There are huge opportunities for our town centres, which can provide accommodation and leisure, bringing footfall during the night time as well as during normal hours.

Planners, landlords, developers and others with an interest should continue to invest, for there will always be a place for a good quality shopping, dining and leisure experience. It is up to them to provide it.

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House prices have started to fall, according to new figures

That is hardly surprising and actually isn’t a bad thing. The housing market has been over-performing, pushing prices out of the price range of many and forcing some to borrow what they cannot afford. The housing boom and the subsequent issues of negative equity helped feed the banking crisis of a decade ago. A check in the ever-increasing prices may help avoid that happening again.

It may also help those who wish to get onto the housing ladder to achieve their aim. The key is to avoid volatility in the market, which helps no one.

Having stability provides assurance for those who pay mortgages and do not wish their assets to depreciate. It gives comfort for those who want to buy and it avoids the mass of debt that would flood the economy if prices plummeted and house owners defaulted.

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