COMMENT: There can be a future for the right high street shops

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The rise of online shopping has clearly played a large part in the demise of several large chain stores.

Behemoths that once stood in every town and city have failed to find a way to survive in the 21st century.

Woolworths was one of the first high-profile casualties, while Toys’R’Us and electronics shop Maplins have already folded this year. And now Mothercare is the latest household name reported to be struggling for survival.

Perversely, as the homogenisation of our high streets crumbles, it has once more given the smaller, independent shops space to carve out a thriving niche.

While online shopping has made life a lot more convenient – who doesn’t enjoy lounging on the sofa and clicking through the options? – and is often, but not always, cheaper, there are times when nothing compares to the personal touch.

For the right enterprise, boutique shopping has become a viable alternative to the web-based experience.

The friendly and knowledgeable service that they can offer can’t be matched through a screen.

That’s not to say the future will be easy for these stores, but it certainly looks like there could now be a positive future where several years ago even that was in doubt.

In Fareham, traders in the western end of West Street have often spoken of being neglected by the local authorities in favour of the precinct.

But in recent years there has been something of a quiet renaissance and they now speak with more confidence, making potential comparisons with the likes of Brighton or Camden.

With a little TLC and a few measures – better signage, more publicity, free parking – there’s no reason why awareness can’t grow quickly about these commercial gems in our midst.