THE news that one of the oldest shops in Malvern, Brays department store, is closing its doors after more than a century of trade, is sad but hardly surprising.

There was a time when any town of Malvern’s size or bigger, would have had its own similar emporium, independent and family-owned.

But time has moved on; chain stores started to dominate the nation’s High Streets decades ago.

And since then, there has been the rise of the edge-of-town retail park, and, more recently, the devastating effect of online shopping.

So what can be done to preserve the traditional town centre? Many people are attached to such an ideal, with its vision of a patchwork of small local shops: the artisan baker, the butcher, the greengrocer and so on.

But the fact must be faced that millions of people have, over the years, voted with their feet and their wallets.

Those out-of-town estates, and now the internet retailers, were, and are, supplying what the people wanted, and still want: a wide variety of goods delivered in the most convenient manner available.

So possibly the question to ask is: should we be trying to preserve the traditional town centre? After all, the public has shown us what it wants.

It is notable that recent business openings in the centre of Malvern induce enterprises like barbers, beauticians and nail bars; all of which offer services that cannot be delivered electronically, but only in person.

The large numbers of estate agents’ offices in the town centre could also be quite easily explained: houses are for almost everyone the single most expensive thing they will ever buy, so they will want the comfort of dealing with a long-established business with reassuring bricks-and-mortar premises, instead of some shadowy internet entity.

The town centres of today are different from the town centres of the 1950s, just as they were different from the town centres of the 1890s.

But people won’t lose their urge for sociability, and there will always be the demand for places to get together; commercial enterprises will still be set up to provide convivial places for people to get together.

This may point the directions of the future of our High Streets. People may be shopping alone in front of their screens, but they will still want to get together afterwards.