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The history of the high street

The British high street- we all love it, know it, worship it and flock to it religiously. But how much do we really know about our favourite place in town and where did our fashion mecca all begin?

Topshop, H&M, Zara and New Look to name are names just as famous as Brangelina or the Beckham in light of their popularity, so as part of our new High Street Edit we thought we’d take a look at the history behind the nation's favourite past time!

The high street first came about in the 1870's - social historian Juliet Gardiner explains that 'because of urbanisation, people no longer had the facilities to grow food themselves. It was then that market stalls became shops, with fixed prices, customer service and home deliveries.'

However, it wasn’t until Edwardian times that shopping became the retail therapy that it is now. It’s popularity was largely based on the Votes for Women movement (if anyone knows shopping, it's us women!) The suffragettes desperately wanted somewhere respectable to go on their own in their free time, and as a result tea shops and department stores opened. It was from this era that Selfridges was born - opening it’s doors in 1909.

In 1964 the disposable, fast and cheap fashion culture we’re so used to today begun. Young girls didn't neccesarily want clothes in classic designs made to last any more, they wanted high fashion statements and that very same year Topshop was born! After Topshop followed Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Topman, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Wallis, BHS and Miss Selfridge leading the Arcadia group to dominate most of the high street as we know it today. With the international arrival of Swedish retailer H&M, Spanish retail empire Zara and the addition of Next, our British high street is now often proclaimed to be the best in the world!

Ironically, despite our stock being a global favourite with fashionistas worldwide our customer service is reported to be voted as the worst in Europe - as Mary Portas is always keen to point out. Furthermore, with sales at an all time low last month and retailers such as HMV, New Look, Next, Argos and U.S import American Apparel all said to be in financial woe the future of the Great British high street is said to be uncertain. We hope this isn't the case - even if it would mean an amazing closing down sale - here at COMPANY and High Street Edit, every store on the high street has a special place in our hearts!

Forever changing and ever-expanding British high street... we salute you!
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