Fringe Box



Shopping On The High Street

Published on: 20 Dec, 2011
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2012

by Martin Giles

You have probably been to Guildford High Street over the last week to do some Christmas shopping. You probably feel that you know it fairly well – but do you really?

If you are a lady in need of a new outfit then Guildford High Street could be the perfect shopping ‘experience’.

You could peruse ladies clothing in over 30 (or 1 in 3) of the High Street’s 89 shops. This will, of course, include your accessories and footwear.

Next, your purse is feeling a little light after some of the hefty spending, so a quick trip to one of the High Street’s nine banks or building societies will be needed to replenish cash supplies, (if you are a Santander customer you have four different branches to choose from, all on the High Street!).

Back in funds, you head for one of the High Street’s jewellers. Take your time, there are seven to choose from. Suitably adorned you can head to one of the six mobile phone shops – you need to top up so that you can make the call to the little man at home (there was no point in him coming, most of the shops are for the fairer sex) and break the news of your latest bargains. Finally, why not relax over a cup of coffee, at one of the High Street’s seven tea/coffee stops?

Sipping your cappuccino you remember that shopping list that hubby gave you before you set out. 1 lb spuds, some fresh fish, a brace of pheasants, a galvanised bucket, half a pound of 1″, size 8 wood-screws and 2 pints of 20/50 motor oil. Oh dear, he has become a bit disconnected with reality since you stopped him coming shopping. Come to think of it, that was probably in the 1970s. He just does not understand what Guildford High Street is all about these days!

Of course, this is just a bit of fun to make a point. Shops do not exist to match the pipe dreams of an old so and so like me. Harsh laws of business dictate which shops survive and which don’t, which ideas can attract investment and bank loans and which can’t. Presumably there are so many ladies clothes shops because there is plenty of demand for ladies clothes, many of them at the higher end of the market.

We can hardly be surprised that banks and building societies are so numerous. Having partly caused the current financial problem, they themselves seem to be fairly immune (with our help!) to the recession, so far at least. They can afford the hefty rents/rates. Perhaps we should be glad they are still okay, even though it does seem so unfair.

That a couple of jewellery shops have not gone to the wall is also a sign that for all our economic problems there is still, apparently, more than enough wealth around and those prepared to spend it on luxury items. Mobile phones on the other hand have become a necessity to most of us. There must be good money in it otherwise why do they have all these prime sites as opposed to a just a departments in stores like Curry’s?

Below is a table of our survey and a pie chart showing a breakdown by shop type. Two things are clear, the predominance of clothes shops and that shops, like birds, tend to keep close company with others of a similar type. Fierce competition or is there some symbiosis at work?

Please note: ‘Food’ includes food served on the premises as well as grocers; ‘Clothes’ includes ‘Accessories’ and ‘Shoes’; the two shops classified as Department Stores, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser have been allocated one to ‘Food’ and one to ‘Clothes’

Guildford High Street is one of the country’s foremost shopping streets outside the major cities. Its commercial success is very important to the town but so, perhaps, is its utility. What initiatives would you be proposing or supporting if you were a borough councillor. Is it good as it is or should radical changes be made? Should it all just be left to market forces? Is expansion of the Friary Centre a good thing or will it fatally wound the High Street’s economy? Should anything be done to maintain prosperity during the expected hard times?


* These shops contain a tea/coffee shop
Categorisations are sometimes imprecise (e.g. W H Smith as a book shop and Boots as just a chemist)
Only businesses trading at ground floor level have been included
Shops on the High Street on the west bank of the river have not been included

What next for these premises? They have been occupied by Bateman's for all of our living memory, it seems.

Although there are two shops with temporary Christmas tenants there is only one empty shop. It is just above Holy Trinity on the south side of the street, until recently Bateman’s opticians. The website intends to examine more of Guildford’s shops, in future, and not just in the High Street.

What do you think about Guildford’s High Street shops? How do you think it might change if the economy continues to deteriorate? Do please let us know by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ facility below. Your email address will not be visible to other readers.

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