Workers need great places to work, not Ghost Towns

19 Mar 2019

As well as offering attractive premises to work from, employers need to help their local town or city to be an attractive place to live and work in.

That doesn’t happen on its own. It requires help from all the local employers.

In 1981, the British two-tone band The Specials had a number 1 hit with Ghost Town. The song included the lyrics “This place (town) is coming like a ghost town. No job to be found in this country. Can’t go on no more. The people getting angry.”

Ghost Town offered a punchy but true social commentary on the state of the economy, which had been hit by the 1979 Winter of Discontent and the early 1980’s recession. The tide of unemployment was high throughout the 1980’s and some city centres became punctured and desolate.

To some it felt like the final countdown. Social and economic cohesion was hard to come by. Town and city centres were tough places to live and work. But eventually the UK economy came back to life, there was more brass in pocket and city centres started over, becoming lively centres of commerce and community once again. We adapted to change and got into the groove.

Online shopping forces a Ghost Town resurgence

According to a BBC article, the rise of internet is now threatening a return to Ghost Towns. Our tainted love for the high street is putting retailers under pressure. Internet shopping is forcing a total eclipse of the high street.

Technology has been the major catalyst for this computer love, but the uncertainty around Brexit is just another brick in the economic wall around the high street. High street retailers are right to ask the questions: Is there something I should know? Don’t you want me? and Do you really want to hurt me?

Much has already been made of the impact on high street employers, but perhaps not enough has been said about the effect on other city centre businesses. All employers need to offer their staff a vibrant and safe place to work. Employees need places close to work to shop and socialise. The threat to the high street is therefore a threat to all employers and residents alike.

More needs to be done to encourage local spending

Not every little thing the high street does is magic, but if the high street fails many employees might look to move out of town to new employers. More businesses may be forced out of town and city centres. To counter that risk, employers in town and city centres can start initiatives to encourage local spending, creating a chain reaction.

Working in partnership, businesses and business groups can stand together and deliver, effecting lots of positive change. Urban employers and high street retailers have the same simple message ‘Stand by me’. Both need flourishing town and city centres to operate in.

The more that can be done to support traditional retailers and new concepts for the high street should be welcomed. An investment in culture helps employees find a place to work, rest and play. Urban regeneration keeps workers happy and more retail workers in jobs. We need to turn a different corner and create a house of fun that leaves us dancing in the high street. A cynic might say We should be so lucky, but the reply to that is When the going gets tough the tough get going. When it comes to pulling together then let it be.

© Simon Rhodes – Specialist Employment Solicitor and Partner based at our Southampton office. Contact Simon with any of your employment-related legal concerns on 02380 820547.


Simon Rhodes

Senior Partner