THE high street is changing. We hear often about its impending demise but, while there is definite decline, there are also new initiatives that might show the way forward.

First, the gloom: some retailers are just not getting it right, at least according to the Which? annual shopping survey, where customers complain about poor or rude service, over-priced items and even outdated ambience in many stores. Beyond such generalities, it seems rather extraordinary that WH Smith has been rated in the bottom two retailers for eight years in a row.

The retailer has always described the survey as “misleading”, because its core products don’t fit categories for shoppers’ recommendations. Still, being rated worst high street retailer in the UK, as it has this year, is an ignominious position to hold and, while the chain may have a point about the format of the survey, the Which? report also features damning criticism by shoppers.

Indeed, several stores attracted highly critical remarks and, for these, the general feeling was one of malaise and almost a lack of enthusiasm, as if they were just treading water.

So much for the gloom. On the sunnier side of the high street, the likes of Lush, which topped the poll, get plaudits for being creative, innovative and environmentally engaged. A feature of such shops, for example, is using as little packaging as possible.

Concern about plastics and packaging is now no longer restricted to dedicated environmentalists but is now widespread. Tabloid papers have made it the subject of major campaigns. We are all dedicated environmentalists now and the pounds we like to spend are green.

Plenty of these are being spent at Locavore, a social enterprise supported by Zero Waste Scotland, which seeks to build a more sustainable local food system and offers plastic-free shopping with reduced packaging. The Glasgow store has attracted three times as many customers as expected, people who just don’t want their purchases festooned in unnecessary packaging.

This is the future, as evidenced by children from Glasgow’s Sunnyside Primary School, who recently met executives from the McDonald’s fast-food empire and asked them to get rid of plastic straws in their restaurants. The executives said the straws were no longer offered but had to be requested, and assured the children they were also looking at better recycling.

It’s the least that shoppers of the future will expect. No-one is suggesting that packaging has much to do with the woes of the stores at the bottom of the Which? survey. But there is a lesson in that being imaginative, engaged, up-to-date and thoughtful tends to be a trait of retailers and enterprises that rise to the top in shoppers’ esteem.