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Some thoughts on small towns’ centers decline

In 1990s, city, eco-friendly, good life, politics, powys, russian, shopping, traditions on March 24, 2013 at 08:52

About a year ago I went  to Norfolk and lost my gloves. It was bitterly cold, my hands always get cracked in these conditions so I went to several shops trying to buy new gloves or mittens. They look at me as they never heard about items of clothing like that.  Apparently they wouldn’t sell them till next winter…

Yesterday (deep wet show on the ground) I desperately needed new snow boots and, again, to my surprise, met the very surprised look. Fortunately for me a kind lady working in the shop went to storage and fetched some boots for me. Why there is attitude like that? It is often cold and still could snow in March and April, so why are they not interested in making money and helping people? I often feel that the economic trouble in this country is to some extent to do with apathy.

Many are worried about decline of Newtown  now. People don’t want to buy anything apart from bare necessities. Some blame supermarkets. But I am looking at my neighbours at the market and in the area – small business owners – and supermarkets have nothing to do with their struggle. Tesco don’t sell craft supplies, vine making supplies, handmade arts and crafts, etc. The lady who sells bread and eggs here always has customers despite all supermarkets sell similar food too. Supermarkets help people – me and the family, we wouldn’t survive without their cheep food, home deliveries and large variety of items. So don’t blame them, please. Don’t blame charity shops either – they actually help people on both ends. I lived through a crisis in Moscow in 90s without any charity shops and it was tough.

Because of insecurity people are very carefull about their shopping. And lots of shops are getting closed. But, think about that: who really needed 10 clothes shops in a little town? And mostly selling very similar items too. It is boom which was crazy – not bust. It is getting back to some normality now, in my opinion. People used to buy new items when the old ones were still perfectly OK and that was wrong. It is not realistic to hope for this situation to go on forever. It is not sustainable.

Rather than trying to compete with supermarkets and Internet, I think the town centers should become something completely different to survive. Shops and cafes should be truly unique. Rents should be lower. The council should also partly sponsor all sorts of local groups and clubs to have outlets here – making town centers the places where people came to socialize, not just shop. Benches to sit (protected from the rain) and more playgrounds would help too. More security against vandals, drunks and hooligans. After living in Moscow it surprised me how early everything shut down here – apart from pubs. Because of this town centers are not very nice place to be in the evenings. I don’t think this is right. Longer shop opening hours and the town not being completely dead on Sundays would bring more life on the streets. I think, it could be done, unless we all are just drowned in apathy…

 

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