Every so often Wandsworth Guardian incorporating Wandsworth Borough News, with an average net circulation of 49,317 copies (of which 99% are distributed for free), and a monthly average of 31,382 unique visitors to its website, is shoved through my door. The paper is a good source of local news and a collection of rather angry letters. Sometimes the stories are really local, and it has to be wondered whether they needed any sort of news to fill the paper: broken traffic lights on Tuesday causing chaos deserved a short article under the headline Mayhem. At other times, there are significant reports, or news items that reflect the broader changes in the society and the country at large.
One piece of news that I suspect would be familiar to residents of many towns and cities in Britain in the 30 January issue was the report that two more bookies are set to open in Tooting. What surprised me was that there are 22 betting shops already. Tooting is a bustling, busy kind of place, but even then 22 already seem a little excessive. If they were to go ahead, the new branches would replace – who would have guessed – a kebab shop, and a former jewellery shop. I wonder how much money an average betting shop takes in, but it must be quite substantial and lucrative, especially with the fixed-odds betting terminals. Yet, I have to also wonder if physical betting shops will remain on the high street, as more and more betting and gambling take place online, at least on the strength of TV advertisements that seem to consist of bingo ads followed by payday loan ads.
The high street in many places – including near where I live – has been changing: there are more mini-supermarkets, pound shops, charity shops, pawnshops, betting shops, and Greggs. On a positive note, the high street is not dying out, but on a negative note, it is becoming blander. The high street may be alive and well in outward form, but perhaps its spirit is still in decline.