Welsh Witterings: Pondering over the High Street
This week I have been researching and writing about changes in the bakery industry over the past 100 years. In between getting engrossed in accounts of 1920’s bakeries and bakers, I began to ponder over how the high street and our shopping habits have changed.
I recall going into cake shops as a child and smelling the freshly baked bread whilst my eyes feasted upon glass display cabinets filled with an exciting array of tempting array of cakes and pastries. Nowadays, bakeries along the high street seem to have scaled back in terms of quantity and range of cakes and bread. Indeed it’s been an age since I saw a cottage loaf in a bakery shop or a proper Danish Pastry with pineapple on it.
Indeed the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, is no longer a term we use, as the first two are endangered and the third one is pretty much extinct. The vicious price-cutting swept in by the supermarkets and the internet has cut a swathe through our high streets, and changed our shopping habits.
During my research I came across an article on a bakery that has survived to celebrate it 120th anniversary. The bakery is called Hindley’s, and they explain that the only way they have survived is through returning to basics. From humble beginnings this bakery came to employ 230 staff and own a string of bakery shops across Staffordshire. However, Hindley’s describe how their business had to change as the high street started to decline and more people began shopping in supermarkets. Essentially, this business had to scale back and is now back to producing artisan breads and cakes that are made in-house.
Our high street is certainly changing and not for the better. In addition each week it seems that another household brand disappears, the end of 2019 saw Bob Martins go into administration, but last year saw many other well known household and high street stores fall under the difficult climate. Some say that the high street is not dying, but changing or becoming more relevant, but as I see more traditional shops such as family owned bakeries, cobblers and green grocers, I conclude that our reliance on online services and shopping has killed not only the high streets, but has begun to end our brief, but passionate affair with the out of town retail parks.
I feel that the pressures of work and high cost of living have meant that we are all guilty of bargain hunting online, or attempting to make savings on groceries, but there really is no comparison between an in-store baked baguette and a good crusty cob made by hand at a local bakery.
I will be continuing my research into the past hundred years of baking history and predict that I may shed one or two more nostalgic tears for our lost shops and shopping habits.