Bridgend Town Centre – Welcome
Listen to the local news on any given day and chances are the decline of Bridgend town centre will be mentioned somewhere in the news bulletin. Indeed, if you are a resident of Bridgend a walk along the recently pedestrianised precincts in the centre of Bridgend town centre may well cause those news reports to strike a chord with you?
When was the last time a national brand invested in shop frontage in Bridgend? Probably Costa Coffee in Caroline Street and whilst a nice cup of coffee is always a welcome reward for a day spent pounding the highways and byways of Bridgend centre in your quest for bargains, the sad fact is without the big names which have closed down in the town of late there seems to less and less reason to go for a browse around our town centre?
But why is this? What is it that makes Bridgend Town Centre less attractive to business owners today, than it was in years gone by?
Existing town traders have their own ideas. Some put it down to the lack of free parking whilst others place the blame with Bridgend County Borough Council and their high business rates?
Not so long ago talk amongst business owners locally placed the blame for a lack of footfall on the works which were taking place to pedestrianise Bridgend Town Centre. Today however, with the works long ago completed, those same traders, or at least a percentage of them are blaming the pedestrianisation of Bridgend Town Centre itself as at least one of the causes for a lack of shoppers?
Whilst its fair to suggest some or even all of these issues may at least be playing a part in the decline of the Bridgend High Street, the real reasons are I think it fair to suggest, all together more Darwinian.
Whether we can all agree on the matter? Or not? The fact is retail evolution is playing a massive part in whats happening on the ground in Bridgend Town Centre.
As a child of the 70’s and 80’s it was nothing unusual for this reluctant child to be dragged out for a Saturday shopping expedition with my mother.
Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff
I was brought up in a suburb of Cardiff called Roath and we were fortunate enough to live less than 500 yards away from a thriving shopping ‘centre’ called Albany Road. The local kids called it ‘going to town’ when we went shopping with the parents as Albany Road was indeed the centre of our universe.
As well as the usual assortment of butchers, bakers, cobblers, green grocers, drapers, off-licenses, record shops, shoe shops, chip shops and chemist shops we also had a fair smattering of national brands like Tesco, Woolworth, Kwik Save and the like. All happily co-existing alongside each other.
On almost every street corner there was normally a fruit & veg barrow? Each parent had their favourite and whilst mum hand picked her cauliflower carrots and cabbage for the forthcoming Sunday dinner it was nothing unusual for the vendor to offer a piece of fruit fast approaching ‘over ripe’ to me and my little sister as we waited impatiently for mum to conduct her business so we could head off to the butchers to pick a joint of meat and the bakers for a loaf of bread.
The same thing happened on special occasions such as birthdays. I remember as a football mad 13 year old, rushing home from school as my mum had promised to take me to the local sports shop (Cardiff Sportsgear) on the corner of Albany Road and City Road, to pick up my first ever Cardiff City shirt. It was a massive occasion and the shop keeper played his part, by pretending to not know what the Cardiff City home shirt looked like. ‘What colours are on the shirt?’ he asked me whilst my mum nipped around the corner to the bakers for ‘fresh bread’. In actual fact she was off to pick up my birthday cake.
I found out only later the shopkeeper, a friend of my mum’s, was party to this deception and played his part to the full.
I asked for the blue home shirt with the yellow and white stripe down the front. He gave me a yellow shirt with blue and white stripes down the arms – the Leeds United away shirt. It was an insult but we both enjoyed the charade all the same.
This was the way it was. It was how we did things back then.
21st Century Shopping
Today, as a parent myself with seemingly less and less time available for taking care of family matters, things could not be more different.
The Weekly Shop generally starts with me firing up either my laptop or my ipad. I log into my Tesco Online shopping account, hit the favourites menu to pick the things I know my family likes without even having to search for them. One quick online transaction later and the weekly shop is done. 24 hours later we hear the rattle of the side shutters on the Tesco delivery van and that is the signal for the 5 minute relay of running between the front door and the kitchen carrying green stacking baskets laden with shopping and returning with the empties which are piled ready for the driver to return to his van.
Christmas and birthdays are carried out on Amazon or Ebay, without any of the friendly banter with the vendors. Who are more often than not a faceless business name based 300 miles from me who are offering free next day delivery right to my front door in exchange for a positive feedback rating.
Bridgend High Street
As sad as it is to admit, those halcyon days of shopping with the family in Albany Road are distant memories and its about time business owners in Bridgend Town Centre stopped trying to hang onto the past and instead, embraced the future. For those that do there are riches to be made. But first changes have to be made in the way we do things.
Its no accident that the majority of success stories which spring to mind these days are already household names and regardless of whether you use those outlets yourself, or not?
What is it that Uber, Airbnb, facebook, alibaba, ebay and Amazon all have in common?
- Uber is the largest taxi company in the world yet they own no cars.
- Airbnb is the largest name in online hospitality yet they own no property.
- facebook is the worlds leading content provider yet it produces no content.
- alibaba, ebay and Amazon are between them the largest shopping outlets on the planet, yet they own no inventory.
So what information can we glean from this? Shopping has changed and so have the places we decide to do our shopping.
Those that embrace technology and change with the times can continue to operate. Differently albeit, but continue they shall.
Those that try to do things the way we did things in the 70’s and 80’s, will sadly fall by the wayside and into extinction.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
In 1864 Herbert Spencer apparently first coined the term the ‘Survival of the Fittest‘, as the most easily understandable explanation for the process which would become known as natural selection.
Convenience is a mighty ally in the quest for new business and those online vendors who make it convenient and easy for their customers to spend money with them will ultimately win out.
As for the rest? They will as is the case today, end up as charity shops and betting offices until eventually the quest for housing outweighs the need for a redundant High Street once and for all.
Sad, but true.
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