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LETTERS: Diss town’s decline not down to internet use




I read with interest the write-ups about the death of our high street (If it continues like this, Diss will become a ghost town, Diss Express, June 28).

Being in my 80s, I feel I have seen more than most and would like to point out what I think really started the decline. I would agree that some of it is to do with the internet, but I don’t feel it can be blamed for all the high street troubles.

In my early years, we had three food stores in our high street. Bales, Harveys and International Stores, along with the Co-op in Victoria Road.

Diss town. Picture: Mark Bullimore.
Diss town. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

They had counters all the way around the shop area and behind these counters were good assistants waiting to serve you.

You would enter with your list of requirements and wait to be served. Everything was cut and weighed in front of you – no pre-packed goods in the early years. Bacon was cut off with a bacon slicer, just the amount required, cheese cut to order, tea was stored in big square chests and sugar in big sacks. Tea and sugar were put in blue paper bags and tied up with white string from a roll hung overhead. These being the war years, you had to also have the required coupons. These shops only sold food.

The next generation of food stores arrived. Lovibond, Fine Fare and Safeway, again only food stores. They had a new concept of retailing, with ready-packed goods and the first self-service stores.

People took to the new style of shopping and both Bales and Harveys closed. Now, at this stage, we had five thriving greengrocers and five paper shops. These shops employed a string of paper boys for deliveries, of which I was one. I worked for Alfie Lupton.

What happened next is that the big boys arrived. Instead of just being food retailers, the powers-that-be gave them a licence and free hand to sell anything they wished. This is what, in my mind, really killed our high street.

Five greengrocers and five paper shops closed. These shops and many others were killed off by the superstores that moved into Diss.

The internet wasn’t responsible for our paper shops and greengrocers closing. Before superstores, every village had two or three village stores, which are no longer there.

I don’t think anyone worth their salt can really blame the internet for their closure.

Neville Pearson

Victoria Road
Diss

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