10% Of High Street Shops Are Empty – 10% Of Sales Are On The Internet


This is one of those things we’re supposed to be celebrating – but then there’s no one a conservative as a lefty in the face of change, is there? High Street shops and chains are closing across the country. This, apparently, will put retail jobs at risk.

Good, we don’t need people doing those jobs any more. They can go off and attempt to sate some other human desire or want:

Shoppers are deserting the high street in greater numbers than during the depths of the recession in 2009, creating a brutal climate that is putting thousands more retail jobs at risk.

The coming days will be crucial to the future of a handful of household names, including Mothercare and Carpetright, which are trying to persuade investors to make vital cash injections so they can jettison unwanted stores. There is also the spectre of job losses at Poundworld, the struggling discount chain, which is being cut adrift by its American owners.

As I’ve pointed out before there’s a good reason for this:

It has been said that we can see the technological revolution from computing everywhere except in the economic statistics. Yet these two failures are evidence of that very revolution. Not just Amazon, but the whole online sales revolution is changing retail. It is not a coincidence that some 12 per cent of retail sales are online today, that also some 11 or 12 per cent of physical retail space is empty. One is causing the other, to our greater benefit.

That is what is happening. The effect of which is:

We know why these two store chains went down. Their lunch has been eaten by the online retailers. Their empty stores are proof positive that the technological revolution is proceeding apace. Electronics, or toy, sales haven’t fallen in the economy as a whole. Retail sales themselves haven’t. So it’s not evidence of some general disaster happening, it’s a sectoral shift within the economy. Away from expensive retail methods of providing what we want, and towards less expensive online methods of delivery. That process is making us richer, as we still end up getting what we want and also have money and resources left over to have something else with.

Most importantly, the labour of those people who used to work in the shops is now available to do something else. Think on it. There’re some 7 billion of us around these days. Are all human needs and desires met? Is the reason that some of them aren’t that there’s not enough human labour to do so? Good, then we agree that human labour is a scarce economic resource. Thus, if we’re able to gain our shopping by using less of it then that makes us richer. Richer by the satiation of those other human desires which that labour can now achieve.

The quite literal decimation of the High Street isn’t something to worry or moan about. It is, instead, the direct evidence we need that we’re all getting richer.