Then and Now

How has your high street changed?

Use our sliders to explore major UK high streets and discover how they’ve changed

The world has changed a lot over the past 60 years – and nowhere is that more obvious than your local high street. Broadly speaking, the starkest development is that many independent shops and local landmarks have been replaced by big name brands. And even some of those huge chains have been threatened by the rise of online shopping and other changes in shopping habits.

But is it really all bad news for local retailers? What does this mean for the future of the high street and how can you keep your business relevant in the face of change?

We’re taking a look into the past of some of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations to pull out some lessons history can teach us about staying the course in retail. Use the sliders to compare and contrast London, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow streets then and now.


London's high streets gave birth to many of the UK's most recognisable retail brands. Debenhams, WH Smith and Tesco are just a few of the big names who started from humble beginnings in the Big Smoke. Which small business is next in line to hit the big time?

Changing London Retail shops
Changing London Retail shops

London key fact:

“London’s Oxford Street is the longest high street in Europe, offering 67 flagship stores.” 2


Manchester has been a shopper's paradise since it was given the right to host markets by William the Conqueror in 1066. From the funky independent shops of the Northern Quarter to the high-end boutiques of King Street, every shopper (and retailer) can find a space to suit in this northern powerhouse.

Changing Manchester Retail shops
Changing Manchester Retail shops

Manchester key fact:

“The first Co-operative shop was opened in Toad Lane, Rochdale, known as the birthplace of the worldwide co-operative retail movement.” 3


Home to Mersey beat and the Titanic, Liverpool underwent a huge amount of regeneration after being awarded the title of European Capital of Culture in 2008. Independent businesses have been thriving in the city, as have high street favourites in newly developed areas like the Liverpool ONE shopping centre.

Changing Liverpool Retail shops
Changing Liverpool Retail shops

Liverpool key fact:

“Liverpool is home to the UK’s largest open air shopping centre, Liverpool ONE, offering 170 stores, bars and restaurants.” 4


As well as being the second largest retail centre in the UK, Glasgow has also been voted the most friendly city in the world. New urban renewal projects have revitalised the city centre, making Scotland’s second city an attractive place to set up shop.

Changing Glasgow Retail shops
Changing Glasgow Retail shops

Glasgow key fact:

“Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street together make up around two and a half miles of shopping.” 1

Shop insurance that stands the test of time

Whether your shop is brand new or a high street stalwart, we’ve got you covered with our shop insurance for retailers.

There’s no need to shop around – it’s insurance you can tailor to your store’s needs. What’s more, you’ll benefit from a 10% discount for buying online. It’s the protection you’d expect from AXA – for less.

  • Public liability cover as standard, with up to £5m protection
  • Free 30% increase in stock cover – at dates of your choice – with contents cover
  • Accidental damage as standard with contents cover
  • 24-hour glass replacement with contents cover
  • Free 24-hour emergency helpline

1 Glasgow Facts and Figures,

2 Top 10 quirky British retail facts,

3 Rochdale Pioneers Museum,

4 14 fun facts to love about Liverpool,