How London’s Barking is bucking a UK trend of declining high streets

Written by By Alyssa Valsett, CNN

The quirky pharmacy landscape may be changing, but for the moment the four pharmacy counters in the East London suburb of Barking and Dagenham have remained one of Britain’s main retail events.

Avenues in the east London neighborhood of Barking and Dagenham. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Driven in by headstrong employees eager to prove themselves, the hordes of younger people enjoying free entry and the 80,000 customers a week — there are regulars queuing for 40 minutes or more to take their pick — are testament to the neighborhood’s renewed life. It’s also growing, and the whole of London as you see it looking over the Southend-on-Sea skyline has been dubbed ” Barkingvision .”

And in Barking there’s new hope for the local pharmaceutical chain, when the England team take on Tunisia in their first World Cup game on Monday: the new Covid Antiviral pills.

Nonprescription drugs have previously supplied all four pharmacy counters, with lines sometimes stretching around the block.

These new antiviral pills are available for just 50p ($0.67). Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The pills in question are called povidone-iodine, and all four pharmacies have put them on sale — four for just 50p ($0.67). (Povidone-iodine is a new nonprescription drug that treats the symptoms of flu, allergies and other viruses, according to its manufacturer.)

It’s not the first such company; the key differences are that they don’t involve being administered by an employee and that they are manufactured for local production.

So, why is Barking and Dagenham the only area in the country to offer such medication?

Shop owners and the Prime Minister

The answer might lie with the neighborhood’s leader. Theresa May campaigned in Barking for the Conservatives in the 2015 general election.

On the community’s front door, in a graphic posted by CNN, reads: “Your candidate Theresa May.”

The superdrug at the heart of Barking and Dagenham. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Another huge sprawl of shops and homes is just off the Superdrug store.

New England Superdrug is a multi-million pound business boasting supermarket-style appeal. The Shopping Centre next door was completed in 2014 and centers on the long-established Indian restaurant Trishna Spice, where two men are giving their first read to the crowd. Inside, there’s a giant screen showing a vlog by comedian, actor and social media star, Joel Dommett.

The mall also houses the Neon Barracks, a kiosk selling plastic toys designed by children and typically made by Pakistanis. The area — where author and TV personality Keith Lemon (aka Leigh Francis) lives — is not short of music venues.

It’s a place with energy, but is seemingly hardly on offer to those looking for a more traditional luxury shopping experience.

Leigh Francis, famous for his Keith Lemon persona. Credit: Michael N. Hough/Corbis via Getty Images

But a range of upmarket designer brands — Kenzo, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Fossil, Mackintosh, Burberry, Gucci, Versace and more — have set up shops at nearby Zara and Topshop, with another big name, Banana Republic, next to Berluti.

After a 20-minute walk, it might sound like a car out of petrol-economy miles, but Langmead Park is full of lovely greenery and world-class sports. It could be the perfect afternoon’s shopping if you can’t find something you want.

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