With the economy turning away from its decade of shopping and borrowing and the march of technology continuing to drive sales on to the internet, the High Street is facing one of its biggest ever challenges.
Retailing has gone through many revolutions before: for example, the rise of the supermarket from the late 1940s which let customers pick things off the shelves themselves.
But, in an era of austerity in which online retailers - free from traditional property and staffing costs and often boasting a vast range of products - are presenting a whole new type of competition, are our High Street shops ready for disruption on that scale now?
Steven Roberston, director general of the British Retail Consortium, believes that shopkeepers big and small are facing some of the most difficult conditions they have seen in many years.
"Speaking to many chief executives running High Street retailers, they are telling me that they have no experience of trading being this tough, this demanding," he told me, "both in terms of how much money the customer has to spend and the difficulties of running your business as well."
Go out to the shops. Have a look around, look at the stores and ask yourself what works in retailing today?
The supermarkets, of course, with their low prices. And on the High Streets, Poundland is quite a phenomenon. But what else? What kinds of strategy will survive the difficult years our shops are going to face?
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