The changing pattern of shopping habits is evident here on Whalley New Road as anywhere. There are probably in the region of some sixty small shops along my route. Somewhere in the region of twenty of those outlets are either vacant, closed or up for sale as seen in the shops at Roe Lee.
This is clear evidence we’re not buying enough locally to sustain these businesses. Out-of-town retail parks, shopping on the Internet and the fact that we’ve become a throw-away society are all contributing to this change. Of the retail outlets remaining, the majority are, cooked food take-aways, hairdressers, nail bars or tanning salons. Chuck in a couple of newspaper shops and some second-hand shops and that’s your lot. Gone are the little hardware shops, motor factors, shoe shops, insurance brokers, cobblers, stationers etc. Even the off-licenses seem to be struggling.
The story isn't much better in Blackburn town centre. Retailers there complain about falling trade. The abolition of free parking is certainly a bone of contention with consumers and shopkeepers alike. Protest web sites have sprung up to campaign against the parking charges in Blackburn. It was reported in March that a website was running a protest this May. The council have now announced the re-introduction of limited free parking as reported in the Lancashire Telegraph a couple of weeks ago.
Even the Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council recommendations for a cycling strategy published in conjunction with Cycling England in November 2006 recognised a weakness in the parking facilities for cyclists: ‘Despite plans to remedy the situation, the current lack of secure long-term cycle parking facilities at many public and private destinations within the Borough prevails. This undoubtedly discourages people from cycling for utility trips which would involve leaving their bike for any length of time at a destination, e.g. for work, education, or shopping trips.’
None of this is news – the trend probably started back in the 1970’s. Recently though, it seems change is happening faster than at any time before. These pictures reaffirm it’s not happening for the better of local retailing. Time will tell if the well-intentioned changes help reverse these trends for the town centre but for these shops, there doesn’t appear to be much hope.