Will Main Street Go Offline?


I was having a chat to my local video rental store owner; I will pause here. The surprising thing about that to most of you is that my town still has a video rental shop. My American wife has not even seen one for years. But, in my town it is still cheaper (and more pleasant) to go to a shop and rent a DVD. So, I was talking to the shopkeep, and she told me they had laid off staff, and the weekends were the only thing keeping the store afloat.

This, and the vacant shop fronts in main straight, had me thinking: When most people in town finally have smart TVs, and the internet reaches a speed and price that allows it, the DVD store will go. Anything that can be bought online will go – and the town will be left with nothing but shops that the internet can’t match. And what shops would they be?

What can’t the internet compete with? Well, anything service I suppose. Coffee shops, hairdressers, dentists. I suspect supermarkets online could happen. I would still prefer to see what I am buying and see all the options, though going online with free delivery would stop the impulse buy. I think I see going to the supermarket as a time to get out of the house and then hit a coffee shop, the internet can’t compete with an excuse to go out.

There are some things I would not trust to online shopping. To me that would be shoes and clothes, I know some people who love shopping for clothes online, but not being average size I don’t trust it. Not sure I would want to buy another phone from online, either. In my last experience it was an Australian website and name, but the phone came from Asia, so not covered by Australian consumer law… another pitfall.

My guess is the shops that people don’t want to use online will be the only ones that remain outside of large malls in major cities. With the money flowing out of smaller districts to central online companies in the capital, there will be less money in the towns to spend on anything not essential to buy in person.

So for shopping districts and shop owners everywhere in Australia, the question becomes this: What wouldn’t you buy online? And that will be all that is left in the main street.

Do you think main street will ever go offline? Will shops ever close down?

Image by AODVet


  • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    I have to admit, I always shake my head when I see new medium-density housing going up around the place, and they always have shops on the bottom floor…. Why build all these new shop-fronts when so much retail and services are going online?

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      I get annoyed when I see the opposite. Shops help develop a thriving community.

      • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

        I’d prefer to see more open spaces and community spaces in high streets – wider footpaths and trees – instead of endless shop-fronts that come right up to the footpaths – instead of thriving communities, what you can end up with is places like Parramatta Road with endless cheap and nasty shops…

        I agree with you that shops can help build a thriving community, but only when they’re combined with open spaces that a community can use together. We have that in what we call our local “Village”… but you need the right types of shops too… cafes and deli’s and things like that…

        What we don’t need is bland and uninviting shopping spaces with empty shops – that ends up doing the opposite of creating community – and, sadly, you see plenty of those around too.

        With so many businesses going online, town planners really need to be careful how many shops they include in their community spaces… I think in the future, less will be needed, but I agree they will still be essential to help build community.

        • Mazi Grey

          I am a fan of the shops underneath the flats. I got used to living with that in Asia. I also like the Village green and shops concept.
          Currently I live in a regional town/centre, and we have a couple of shopping malls either end of a main street. The main street is a bit in decline as most people want to go to the malls.

          The malls have meant most of the corner shops have closed, and the new estates outside town, thanks probably to zoning and the expectation that everyone has cars, don’t have many shops.

          I would love to see the coffee shop/corner store make a comeback in the new estates, just to give them a bit of life. I would hate to live anywhere where I was more than 500 m walk from a shop or social space.

          • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

            Oh yeah – totally agree with local shops vs malls – I’m lucky where I live – we have a really vibrant local community village (and I live right next to it)… I hardly ever go to the big shopping malls…

            But what I don’t like seeing is miles and miles of shopfronts – I think that does the opposite of community building…

  • Mazi Grey

    As an aside, I think I need to write a new article on my complaints with town planning… esp the expectation we all need cars to go shopping.

    • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

      Yes! :)

  • http://darekatrina.wordpress.com Katrina

    I don’t think shops or main street will ever close down. Service providers will also need to be there. Newsagents are slowly fading and I can’t remember the last time I needed to go to one.
    I’ve done my grocery shopping online but I’m not a fan because I’m too fussy about the quality of my fruit and veg. I also refuse to purchase shoes online because guessing the fit and size never works.
    I am a huge fan of buying kids clothes online though.