Where have all the shoppers gone?

Shoppers flock to Princess Street in Edinburgh Credit: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

I spent a sunny day in Havant, Hampshire. But it was full of gloom. I came to talk to struggling retailers. I found plenty.

Rachel has run her homeware shop here for 14 years. "Dire" was her sharp summary of Britain's ailing retail landscape.

Caught between inflation, wage freezes and job insecurity, shoppers are running up the white flag on spending.

What was once our national pastime has become a frightening chore. We no longer shop for what we want - only for what we need. Millions of families have cut out all but essential spending.

Nobody seems to be helping this sector, yet it employs more people than construction, manufacturing or transport.

All those have powerful lobby groups. Meanwhile shop owners face ever-rising rents, high rates and impossible parking restrictions.

Time and time again in Havant they said the same thing in different ways: "We can't hang on much longer. They won't realise what they are losing until we are gone."