Walking down a high street on a weekday afternoon, ignoring the changes, is impossible.

What once were bustling retail hubs are now filled with empty storefronts.

Once-popular stores like Wilko, New Look, and River Island have either closed their branches in Lancashire or will likely close entirely.  

In saying goodbye to these shops, it’s hard not to feel a sense of nostalgia and loss.  

For many of us, high-street shops are more than just places to buy clothes or school supplies; they hold deep memories.

These stores were there for us, from our first shopping trips with friends to purchasing university living essentials.  

After all, don’t we all miss the shops of our youth? But as times change, many of those cherished shops have disappeared, and the memories of these shops and Woolworth’s pick-a-mix still stir up warm feelings of nostalgia.

The physical space holds an emotional impact, from the displays of clothes to the scents and the music on a loop.

The closure of a physical store can be a devastating loss for a community. The familiar brick-and-mortar presence can offer a sense of stability and consistency.  

It’s reassuring to see a shop in the same location year after year as everything around it seems to alter.  

For some, these shops offer a sense of the past, taking us back to a different time in our lives and reminding us of our teenage years or special moments shared with friends or family.

High-street shops become intertwined with our personal history. As I took my last stroll around the rails of my local New Look, memories of my 18-year-old self-flashed back to me.  

Over a decade of my life, I grew up using that place through various phases and mixed fashion eras in the glow of harsh fluorescent light.

The memories of browsing its racks and trying on clothes were etched into the very fabric of the store, and it felt right to return one last time to make one final purchase.  

Shops become a part of the community. They are gathering places where people come together, catch up with friends, or enjoy the social aspect of shopping.

In an age where many of our interactions happen online, the sense of community provided by physical stores is even more crucial. 

Seeing once-bustling town centres become increasingly empty and forgotten represents a more significant cultural shift.

High-street shopping was once a vital part of many towns, playing a significant role in creating a unique sense of community identity.

We risk losing out on that type of shared brick-and-mortar experience that can’t be replicated online.  

These closures also represent a loss of livelihood. Many people I knew and know had weekend, part-time gigs, and full-time jobs in these local stores to make ends meet.

Visiting the store for the last time, I felt the weight of the loss that hung heavily in the air. 

The thought of being told that your workplace is closing and still having to carry on selling clothes while customers frantically search for bargains around you, as the stock steadily diminishes, and customers pick apart what’s left, is horrid.

Particularly when we have come to recognise the faces of these shop workers over time – and then what they will lose because of the shutdown.  

Of course, store closures are not only the fault of online shopping. Various factors are involved, such as changing consumer behaviours, increased expenses, economic fluctuations, and a cost-of-living crisis.  

But, as a society, we must look at what these stores mean to us and consider how we might preserve their sense of community and familiarity.

We must explore creative ways to support these businesses and ensure their closure doesn’t leave a permanent void.

The future of the high street may be uncertain, but it’s down to us all to ensure we’re doing what we can to keep it alive.  

Through meaningful engagement with our high street stores and conversations that consider new ways of supporting them, we can help ensure that future generations can still look back with their sense of nostalgia one day. 

We should aim to preserve the culture and importance of physical storefronts and consider their loss’s impact on future generations: the sense of community, work opportunities, and memories.

Even as things evolve and change, we should continue to recognise the value we attached to these shops - and the value we still should.  

Ultimately, the loss of these places requires us to think carefully about our relationship with the high street.

It asks us to consider these shops’ role in our lives and how we can keep their spirit alive, even as their physical stores disappear.

We must decide how much we value the high street and what we’re willing to do to safeguard its future.

It’s up to us to ensure that the culture and sense of community these stores bring are not lost.