Look back in time far enough and you get to an age when the shop where you bought your goods was also the place where the goods were made. The smithy or the cobbler’s was part workshop and part shop and sat on the high street next to the grocer.
The industrial revolution broke that link, ushering in an era when pretty much everything was made elsewhere and the shops on the high street became showrooms and stockrooms where you could find what was available and in most cases take a ready-made one away with you there and then.
Although we no longer needed the workshop space in our town centres, the mass production enabled by the factories resulted in a bloom in variety of goods available and the creation of consumer culture, easily using up the extra real estate and resulting in an expansion of the area devoted to retail.
With the development of the Internet we’ve seen things shift again. This time the showroom has moved online, with goods being kept in centralised warehouses delivered on demand.
“the factory of the future is many small workshops”
What if those workshops were folded back into our high streets rather than tucked away on industrial estates?
You’d need decent soundproofing and dust extraction, but it needn’t be any more onerous than the work already done when setting up a restaurant. Part of the shop would be the showroom, and then you’d have a double-(or triple-)glazed divider where people could see through to the workshop where their goods were made.
You’d get the benefits of on-demand manufacturing, plus re-connect the public to how their products are made and revitalise the high street to boot.