Not another coffee shop? They are a superb addition to our high streets
‘Oh no – not another coffee shop!’ It is a refrain I have often seen in posts on social media. But there is something they are really missing.
Our high streets are changing. We would all love to go back 30 years in time when retail dominated. In Southport, our big department stores were bustling; we had lots of clothes stores; and Lord Street was famous for its independent shops and jewellers.
This picture was taken on Lord Street in Southport in 1983, with Denise Fashions (a unit which now sits empty), on the corner of Bold Street, while shoppers walk past.
But our high streets are changing – and rapidly. Already this year, 10,000 retail jobs have been lost, with those working at Debenhams on Lord Street sadly among the casualties.
So what will replace these empty spaces? Last year, figures revealed how the UK coffee shop market was valued at £10.1bn across 25,483 outlets, with a 7.9% annual sales increase cementing two decades of UK coffee shop growth. The number of pubs in the UK may be decreasing, but more and more people are enjoying popping in for a cuppa.
The big chains, such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero have all filled their boots during this period of growth, but it has also given rise to lots of brilliant independent coffeepreneurs. They bring with them jobs, investment, vibrancy to the high street, and greater choice for consumers. So why not?
In a great post on the Stand Up For Southport Facebook group, Jayne O’Neil wrote: “I have seen some negative comments ‘we don’t need/ not another coffee shop’, but in my experience these social meeting spaces are core to town centres and personal wellbeing. In an age where we all seem to be glued to our devices, these spaces create the opportunity for people of all ages to meet and chat in a relaxing environment… and then go on to mooch about the town… and usually make a purchase or two!
Paula Garlick commented: “Whether we like it or not change is inevitable, for town centres to survive they need to change and social and leisure experiences are what is needed nowadays. Where my grandmother would have met up with a friend for an afternoon in Lewis’s I want to meet my friend and sit and chat over coffee for an hour or two. So the more coffee shops in a pleasant setting the better.”
Rather than complain about seeing more coffee shops and cafes on our high street, we should support them – especially those which are locally-owned and independent.
Here in Southport, we have lots of choice, and they have greatly improved the area. We have the likes of Remedy, which moved into the former Town Gardens Café site. With their live music events and rows of deckchairs outside during warmer weather, they bring great colour to the Town Hall Gardens (and the gins and home-made cakes are great too).
At the award-winning A Great Little Place nearby, inside The Atkinson, they offer the finest locally-roasted artisan coffee delivered by trained baristas and imaginative food created in their kitchen. Existing for a great reason, thanks to the Autism Initiatives charity, the café makes a positive difference to the lives of people with autism. You will be lucky to find a seat in a venue which already has a huge following.
Across the road, the unit opposite was vacant for months after Monsoon closed – until burgeoning local coffee firm 92 Degrees opened its first venture outside Liverpool city centre.
They said: “We couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Southport is an amazing place. We were blown away by the community spirit here, and were incredibly keen to fit in and contribute to this. The space we chose, Martin’s Bank, is the site of a 1930’s high-street bank, and is graced with stunning original features such as a marble exterior, full-height windows, a stunning circular door and elaborate plaster cornices and arches.”
Further along Lord Street, the décor inside Copper & Ivy has to be seen to be believed.
The venue’s ceiling is covered with branches from a real silver birch tree that came from the owners’ parents’ house. Flowers and foliage dangle from every branch creating an oasis in the middle of town.
But it is not just about coffee. Just down the road you can take afternoon tea at the fabulous Westminster Tea Rooms, a very elegant presence on this stunning Victorian street. There are so many other great venues around Southport worth exploring too.
No more coffee shops? We have so many to be proud of in Southport. They bring colour, life, choice, investment and jobs to our town centres, both in Southport and elsewhere in the UK. Café culture in thriving here. It’s time we gave their arrival a warm welcome.
Cheers – I’m off for a cuppa!
- WHAT do you think? Join our debate on the Stand Up For Southport group on Facebook.