01 August 2019

One in four kids don't know what a high street is

  • 32% haven’t visited a butcher and 23% have never been to a greengrocer

  • But kids prefer shops to online as they can explore, talk and feel grown up

  • Three quarters of parents stick to supermarkets and four in ten shop online

  • Kids want more places to play, more variety and mum and dad to take them

As the decline of the UK’s once-bustling high streets continues to be a concern, research* reveals a quarter of children (26%) don’t even know what one is.

But the resounding message is clear – children value the experience of shopping locally, with 74 per cent stating they would rather spend £10 in a shop than online (15%). However, kids expect more variety on their local high street, more places to play and for their parents and carers to take them in the first place.

The national poll of 2,000 children aged five to 11 reveals seven per cent of children think a high street is literally the highest street in their local area, while one per cent think it’s a road that leads to the sky. In terms of geographic split, those in Northern Ireland were the least aware with two in five (43%) children not knowing what a high street is, compared to one in 10 (10%) in Greater London.

We commissioned the research as part of an ongoing commitment to the great British high street. This year we pledged to not leave any town or city in which we're based without a branch until at least May 2021 – despite hundreds of bank branch closures this year alone.

According to the poll, almost one in four (23%) children have never visited a greengrocer while close to one in three (32%) have never been to the butcher. This compares to just three per cent who have never visited a baker.


Type of shop Have never visited
Laundrette 56%
Florist 44%
Cobbler/ key-cutter 41%
Butcher 32%
Greengrocer 23%
Charity shop 21%
Bank/ building society 13%
Newsagent 9%
Baker 3%

The research highlights that despite a lack of awareness, children want to experience bricks-and-mortar shopping, with nearly three quarters (72%) preferring to buy in a shop than online. The reasons are that they get to explore all the different things in there (64%), they get to feel grown up (31%), and that they get to talk to people (10%).

Of those who know what a high street is, more than four in ten (41%) find them boring because there isn’t enough for them to do and this increases with age – a third (33%) of five-year olds voiced this opinion, compared to 45 per cent of nine-year olds. When asked what would make them go to the high street more often, the most popular answers were more places to play (42%), better choice of shops (35%) and if their parents took them more often (21%). A tech-savvy three per cent even said they would go more often if there were more phone chargers available.

Interestingly, children were able to shed light on their parents’ shopping habits too – three quarters (76%) say their shopping usually comes from a large supermarket and two in five (40%) said they shop online. Half of children in Greater London (50%) say their family shops online, compared to just over a quarter of children in Wales (27%).

Mandy Beech, Nationwide’s Branch Network Director, said:

“Our research shows there is a clear need for local shopping centres in the eyes of the youngest generation. It is up to businesses – large and small – to think how we can work together, invest and rejuvenate our high streets."

“Kids say the high street gives them the opportunity to explore and feel grown up. But they want more variety and places to play and that can only come from greater investment. This is perhaps what is putting parents off going shopping locally"

“At Nationwide, we’re clear that the high street has an important role to play in our economic and societal future. We’ve promised to not leave any town or city in which we are currently based without a branch until at least May 2021 and are looking at other ways we can make a difference. It’s also why we are investing some £350 million over five years into our 650-strong branch network – so that we can move with the times and serve people on their terms.”

*Research carried out by Censuswide. 2,000 children aged between 5-11 were polled between 13/06/2019 – 19/06/2019.

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