Our high streets are changing, according to recent data from the Local Data Company, as discussed by the BBC. The data highlights a number of changes which indicate that what consumers want from the high streets is being transformed. With a decline in bars, pubs and night clubs, instead our town centres are becoming home to more coffee shops, fast food outlets and restaurants; it is suggested there has been a 31% increase in the number of coffee shops (BBC News, 2017). The decline of the pub and the rise of the coffee shop is a trend that has been highlighted in a recent research project, ‘Spaces of Community’ at Coventry University, which explores in detail how the growth of the café industry in the UK is affecting urban areas and their populations.
Around one in five people visit a coffee shop on a daily basis in the UK, compared to one in nine in 2009 (Shubber, 2015). The growth of coffee shops and the café industry in the UK has been rapid in recent years as cafes become social venues, ‘third spaces’, which now represent an important component of urban centres, and recognised as significant economic drivers (Ferreira, 2015). As highlighted in a recent journal article on the growth of the café industry in the UK, the rise in coffee shops has coincided with the decline in pubs, with an estimated 4500 pubs closing between 2009-2013, and at the same time 3800 coffee shops opened (Ferreira, 2016). In 2013 it was claimed by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) that 31 pubs were closing every week (Smithers, 2014). And it is not just a phenomenon taking place in our town centres, even in small villages there is evidence of pubs being replaced by coffee shops. In Isham, a small village in Northamptonshire, the Monk and Minstrel a traditional pub in the centre of the village closed down and was replaced by the Bear and Beignet coffee shop.
There are a number of reasons why this trend is taking place. In the BBC article, Prof Jonathan Morris points to trends that have contributed to the rise of the coffee shop and decline of the pub including, the presence of coffee shops in popular TV shows, and a decline the amount of time people would have previously had to socialise in a pub. The CEO of Whitbread (who own the coffee shop chain Costa Coffee) has suggested that for many people cafes are now playing the role that pubs would have perhaps done in the past, acting as a space where women, in particular, can socialise at any time of the day in a more family friendly environment (Thomas, 2014). The research conducted at Coventry University to date points to a number of drivers for the expansion of the café industry including a rising awareness and consumption of coffee, the impact of recession, a shift to a more leisure oriented high street, the rise of mobile working, a growing demand of safe spaces, and the decline of pubs (Ferreira, 2016).
The growth of the coffee shops as competition to the pub has been recognised by the pub industry too: some pub chains have improved the quality of their coffee being served and make efforts to advertise that coffee is available in the street signs; while one brewery has expanded into the café market. Coffee#1 is one of the fastest growing coffee shop chains in the UK and is owned by the Welsh Brewer SA Brain (BBC, 2015). The BBC article highlights that at present there are still more pubs than coffee shops in our town centres, but given recent trends it could be asked how long this will be the case? You can find out more about the research by Dr Jennifer Ferreira on the development of the café industry and its role in urban spaces on the research blog ‘Café Spaces’ and the Centre for Business in Society webpage.
BBC News (2015) Coffee #1 to open 15 new shops across Wales and England, BBC News 10/12/2015. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-35052727
BBC News (2017) Coffee shops on the march as pubs decline, town centre data shows. BBC News 17/01/2017 Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38609692
Ferreira, J. (2016) Café nation? Exploring the growth of the UK café industry. Area doi: 10.1111/area.12285
Ferreira, J. (2015) How the third wave of coffee shops is transforming the high streets. The Conversation, 27/07/2015. Available at: https://theconversation.com/how-the-third-wave-of-coffee-shops-is-transforming-high-streets-45118
Shubber, K. (2015) Everyone wants a taste of booming UK coffee market, Financial Times, 24/03/2015. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/860d06cc-d13c-11e4-98a4-00144feab7de
Smithers, R. (2014) Pubs closing at rate of 31 a week, The Guardian 12/08/2014. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/aug/12/
pubs-closing-rate-31-w eek) Accessed 16 April 2015