Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Camden Effect

Today, as most days when I'm in London, I passed through Camden Town.

This corner of North London may well be one of the best known shopping sites on earth. The teems of foreign shoppers certainly seems to bear this out.

But today it occurred to me that I can't think of a single record store left in a quarter which is equally well regarded for it's live music scene.

Tower Records went a long time ago, with Fopp, Zavvi, Woolworth's and Virgin more recent casualties. The many backroad niche stores and the second hand record and DVD stalls have also disappeared from the many markets dotted around the area.

A whole sector of retail has disappeared forever.

The Camden Effect is spreading to other sectors - video rental shops have also long disappeared and even off licences are fast disappearing, with Unwins, Threshers and now Oddbins all gone.

My fear is that the UK will become more like US cities. I remember visiting Grand Rapids in Michigan and looking for the stores, only to realise that there were only offices, heating and zircon units and receptions at street level. An anodyne city where nobody bothered to venture outside of office hours.

It is the price of progress and convenience, and I suspect that one day I will be reminiscing about a concept which I never really appreciated at the time - the high street. The Camden Effect will have swept it all away as we shop with our thumbs instead of our feet.