The high street and local community of the future will prosper through a combination of the latest technologies, personalisation and human contact, according to a blueprint for the future commissioned by Metro Bank.
Technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicles will play a key role in creating thriving local communities, it said.
The bank tasked consumer-focused futurist Will Higham to create a blueprint for future local communities, and at the same time commissioned a survey of what people want from the high street of the future.
With fears that the digital world is replacing traditional high streets, the Metro Bank-commissioned survey revealed that over 90% of 16-24 year-olds believe more face-to-face interaction would make the world a nicer place, while 61% of them and 67% of those over 55 would like to be on first-name terms with people in local stores.
Nearly half (49%) of all surveyed said the Covid-19 lockdowns have increased their interest in the local community.
The blueprint for the high street of 2040, by Higham, reveals the important role of digital technology in bringing communities together.
It includes a micro-hospital nestled next to an AI-powered grocery, and a small factory making local goods next-door to a florist that makes deliveries using drones.
There is also a cinema showing films made locally, rather than Hollywood blockbusters, and shops where everybody knows your name.
“Far from the vision of a detached, tech-driven world devoid of social interaction, the blueprint suggests that the nation’s strong desire for face-to-face contact and putting the ‘local’ back into local communities (both accelerated by the pandemic), will see the emergence of completely new kinds of micro high streets and hyper-local neighbourhoods, with technology playing a role in driving more face-to-face opportunities, not less,” said Metro Bank.
Will Higham said Britons’ renewed love of community following Covid-19 lockdowns is one of the biggest trends seen in the past 10 years.
“Anxiety around our globalised world is making Britons look back at the way communities used to live with renewed interest,” he said. “That’s true of young and old alike.
“Check out how well vinyl records and board games are selling with Gen Z,” said Higham. “It’s not a luddite rejection of technology, though. As the report shows, innovations like AI and e-commerce can actually help bring communities closer together. Building a bright future for the local high street will be about combining the best of the present with the best from centuries past.”