The high street of the future

A look forward 10 years into the future for our high streets

The high street of the future

Picture this: it is 2028 and our town centres are different to how they were in 2017, but just how different and what might we expect to find?

It is a cool autumn morning and you are on foot for the last part of your journey to work. You pass a new mansion block, built on a site where shops on the edge of the centre once stood. The demand for physical retail space having fallen and the surplus units on the periphery of the shopping core redeveloped for new uses. Even more people are living in town centres these days.

The ground floor of the mansion block houses a consolidation centre serving most of the stores on the high street and some businesses in the local area. A hydrogen fuel cell truck is unloading in the delivery bay – the tail lift drops silently. (The residents living above don’t mind the quiet, retimed deliveries because the streets are now quieter during the day and less polluted too). The old service yards at the back of the high street have been developed instead for new homes, offices, fitness and leisure uses.

Your watch buzzes – the café next to your office has picked up that you are 200m away – your coffee is on the counter ready for you. You pass another café featuring serviced mini workspaces – or is it a serviced mini workspace featuring a café? The lines have become all the more blurred and mixed-use the norm, but the value of people working face-to-face makes informal workplaces like these as popular as ever.

You arrive at work and the morning passes smoothly. Before you know it, it is time to grab some lunch. Time is tight, but you don’t need to go far. There are plenty of pop-up pods on the nearby streets where cars once lined the pavements – now transformed into informal public spaces and pocket parks. Car ownership has fallen since autonomous cars became more accepted.

The shops are still there in the high street – the bricksand-mortar retailers sitting alongside former online-only retailers. The innovators who have harnessed technology and best used data to understand their customers are thriving. The stores that were once the largest have been subdivided into smaller experience centres. Staff are on hand to advise and demonstrate, but all the tills are gone. It’s self-service and tap-to-pay.

Your watch buzzes again as you pass the bookshop. The screen reads: “Hello, in stock, the new book you were browsing last night.” You choose the “reserve” option and plan to pick it up later.

After lunch you call up your bike from the underground cycle stacker beside the office and head to a client meeting. You spot a new in-town cine-restaurant en route. Leisure and retail have become all the more entwined. After the meeting the day is nearly done. Perhaps you will head back to watch a film if you don’t have to work too late. It is Friday, after all!

…Let’s see how close this is to the reality when 2028 arrives.

This article, by Associate Director Paul Keywood, was originally published in EGi, Winter 2017 edition