Customer numbers fell 3.3pc last week compared with the same time a year ago, according to research undertaken by Experian Footfall and released to The Sunday Telegraph.
At its root, shopping serves one crucial purpose: it defines communities. Your local shops are where you bump into friends, nip out to buy a toaster or pair of shoes, break up the routine of the day – a routine that is growing ever more tenuous as people spend their lives in front of a screen, stuck inside little office boxes or, increasingly, working from home. What happens when the shops die? Neighbourhoods lose reference points. Areas lose their identities. There's no throb of life to the place where you live. It becomes blank, anonymous, savourless.
But now beware: there's a new kind of threat. That threat is stagnation out of town, and degradation in town. The vans I see day after day – busy delivering vegetables next door, groceries across the road, bringing books, clothes and fridges at the push of a button – are not lifelines but the harbingers of a colder, more lonesome world.