Lecture Practice 1

Task 8

Main ideasWrite notes in each section
Lecture Outline

Brief history

Decline & closure




(Welsh valleys)




Key vocabulary

  1. Societal effects.
  2. To implement a solution.
  3. A peddler, market stall holder.
  4. Perishable goods.
  5. A premises.
  6. A department store.
  7. A vibrant sector.
  8. Rents, business rates, business taxes.
  9. Out-of-town retail parks.
  10. British shops: Boots, Waitrose, Debenhams, Laura Ashley, Marks and Spencer.
  11. To go hand in hand (idiom).
  12. Public services.
  13. To drag down an area (idiom).
  14. Innovation.
  15. Community engagement.
  16. Footfall.
  17. Famous highstreets: Belper (Derbyshire), Treorchy (Wales), Blackburn (Lancashire).
  18. A real ale festival, an aerial display. 
  19. Britain in Bloom award.
  20. A Christmas parade.
  21. Occupancy.
  22. Industrial heritage.
  23. Revamped offices.
  24. To make a comeback.
  25. One-size-fits-all.
  26. Occupied, unoccupied.
  27. Vandalised.
  28. Restored.

British high street lecture transcript

TRANSCRIPT: Hello, my talk today is about the decline of the British high street, and I shall be discussing four key points. I shall start with a very brief history of the high street followed by the current situation. I’ll then move on to the economic & societal effects that follow a decline. After that I shall look at some of the solutions that have been implemented in some high streets in Britain, and finally I will set you a little task to do. 

So, let’s start with a brief history. High street shopping has been part of the British retail experience since the 17thcentury when peddlers and market stall holders would sell perishable goods. By the mid 19th century, with improvements in transportation and manufacturing, retailers invested in fixed premises and offered a wider range of products. In the early 20th century, Britain saw its first department store opening. Selfridges opened its doors in 1909 on Oxford Street and was the first store dedicated to shopping for pleasure over necessity. In the 21st century, however, this once vibrant sector of British life is in decline. A combination of high rents and business rates along with the rise in online shopping and out-of-town retail parks has led to the closure of many shops. In 2019 alone, 16,000 shops closed on high streets in the UK. Large brands such as Boots, Waitrose, Debenhams, Laura Ashley and Marks and Spencer have all had to close some of their stores, and almost 60,000 retail jobs were lost in that year. Unless significant changes are made, there will be devasting economic and societal effects.

I shall now discuss these two effects, but as they go hand in hand, I shall discuss them together. Accounting for 10% of all business taxes and 25% of all business rates, retailers make a significant contribution to the British economy. In fact, 20% of our GDP comes from this sector alone. Furthermore, 10.5% of the total population, that’s 3 million people, work in this sector, contributing £17.5 billion in taxes. So, when a shop closes down, not only do people lose their jobs but there’s less money going to the treasury which means less spending on public services. With the NHS already predicted to face a shortfall of £30 billion by 2021 and education spending per child already reduced by 8%, the poor will be the hardest hit. Not only will public services suffer, but empty shops on a high street look visually unappealing too and drag down the whole area. This affects footfall, and less visitors mean more shop closures leading to a grim economic climate for that area.

So what’s the solution? Well, innovation and community engagement is the key. Some local authorities and high street groups are doing just that, and the results indicate that it is working well. One high street leading the way is Belper in Derbyshire. Since the turn of the millennium, it has invested considerably in its high street. With a focus on selling items as well as creating experiences, Belper has increased its visitor numbers significantly. In addition to the variety of shops, cafes and restaurants, it also holds an Arts festival and a food, real ale and craft festival. All these things have enabled Belper to be a cultured, cosmopolitan, proactive place and winner of a number of awards: Britain in Bloom, Best Market Town and Champion High Street. Attracting 75,000 visitors in the last 5 years and with a contribution of £1 million to the local economy, Belper’s high street is prospering.  

Another high street setting a good example is Treorchy in the Welsh valleys. With a thriving community, a good range of independent shops, cafes and pubs, this high street also hosts a number of community-led cultural events. It hosts year-round outdoor cinema viewings, an annual Arts festival and a Christmas parade, all of which increase footfall. It is also recognised for its support to local businesses. The ‘Visit Treorchy’ website offers an online platform for all the businesses in the high street. It’s easy to see why Treorchy’ s retail occupancy stands at 96%, and is holder of the ‘High Street of the Year’ award. 

The final high street that I’m going to talk about today is Blackburn in Lancashire. Winning the ‘Best Town Centre’ and ‘Winner of Winners’ in the Great British High Street Awards, this town has reinvented itself over the last decade. The council invested £9 million in restoring its historic buildings in order to protect Blackburn’s industrial heritage, its empty shops have been revamped into offices and cocktail bars, and the vibrant calendar of year-round events such as aerial performances and street parades are attracting large numbers of visitors.

These examples show that the high street can make a comeback, but it’s up to each local authority to work with its community in the re-planning as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Naturally, investment is required to make changes and there is government support available that communities can bid for. In 2019, the government set aside a £1 billion ‘future high street fund’ to help struggling high streets, and so far, almost 70 towns have benefitted from a financial package.   

I’d like to finish this talk by setting you a little task. Take a walk down your local high street. Have a really good look at the retail units and office spaces and answer the following questions: How many are occupied? How many are unoccupied? What types of businesses occupy the shops? What do the unoccupied shops look like? Have they been vandalised?  Have any of the buildings on the high street been restored? What would you like to see more of or less of? What else is there to do apart from shopping on your high street? Are there any events being held this year? Once you’ve collected your data, you could write a report of 300-400 words about what you’ve seen, or alternatively you could present your findings in the way of a 5-minute presentation. 

That’s the end of this short lecture. I hope you found it informative. Thank you.

Written by A. Watson (AEUK) / Spoken by F. Shirani


Compare your notes with the model answer notes (ANSWERS)

  1. Did you identify most of the supporting ideas? What did you miss?
  2. Where could you have used more abbreviations and symbols?
  3. What do you need to improve for next time?

Listening Transcripts