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rdmBlueBackgroundBY RICHARD DE MELIM


My wife and I went for lunch last week and — unable to park directly outside the restaurant — we drove a few hundred yards further down the high street.


The run of shops opposite the vacant parking spot was until recently home to a reasonably large independent furniture store that operated different showrooms in each adjacent unit.


Today, the furniture store takes up just one of those units, with the remaining shops interspersed with two barber shops, a chicken takeaway restaurant and a vape store.


Only a charity shop is missing, otherwise this part of town would be screaming 'full house' in the game of Grimsville High Street Bingo.


Figures out this week highlighted a 4 percent rise in new store openings in the past six months — a sign some say that high streets can survive and maybe thrive.


But net store closures still increased as high streets become increasingly transient, and occupied by tenants for whom long-term success will be challenging.


I'm not convinced the residents of the town we visited this week believe that the five retailers now occupying the space previously home to just one have added to the strength of their high street?


The week after next, Long Point will take place in the East Midlands town of Long Eaton, where some of the country's finest upholstery producers — as they have done for years — will open up their showrooms to visiting retail buyers.


Long Point is perhaps the only furniture exhibition I've visited in the past where — on arrival — I wondered if I'd come on the wrong dates.


But while it is never the most populous of exhibitions, those retailers that do attend are often, in fact almost always, some of the best.


"We've not seen many retailers but those that have visited have been really high quality," a sales director — probably several — will say at some point next week, and then again in autumn 2020.


It is a cliché but it will also be true. Like evaluating stores, or retail footfall — quality trumps quantity, every time. Which makes evaluating success, or failure, ever more challenging.



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