Twenty years ago, our high streets looked very different. Which, given their subsequent decline, begs the question of just how will they look in the future?
After all, if you'd told someone at the turn of the century that the likes of Debenhams, Woolworths, BHS and Topshop would all have been burnt on the funeral pyre of collapsed retail giants, they would have questioned your sanity.
Will familiar chains still dominate? Or will it all be coffee shops and fast food outlets?
"Town centres are going to need to be a lot of things to a lot of different people," explains Graham Galpin, a member of the High Streets Task Force - commissioned by the government to help advise high street chiefs on how best to build for a brighter future.
"They will need a retail base, but people want to meet.
"Everybody is unique in as much they have the same problems in slightly different ways."
But, he warns ominously: "There are places that are not going to make it. Those that will wait for someone to do something about it - and I've always believed people have to take it upon themselves."
Galpin is certainly no stranger to the challenges high streets face.
He came to the attention of the task force team for his work at Ashford Borough Council. As a cabinet member, he was part of the team which spearheaded the town's revamp - moves which, among other factors, saw the authority buy the Park Mall shopping centre.
Over the space of three years it transformed it from having more than a third of vacancies to being full and teeming with independent traders.
It is a sign of what can be done.
Certainly the time for sitting back and hoping our collective shopping habits change is long over. Being pro-active is the only key to success.
Because, ultimately, the high street offer needs to not rival or beat the world of online shopping, but offer a compelling, and complementary, alternative. Something which draws people in for experiences or products they simply cannot buy through a few clicks of a mouse.
In short, it needs to persuade you and I that it's not only worthy of our time, but good enough to make something of a day of it.
Reassuringly, we should see the enthusiasm we had for flocking back to town centres once lockdown was lifted - the social interactions, the sense of community, is still there.
But, make no mistake, if you hanker for an era of Woolworths and BHS, those days are, for the foreseeable future at least, at an end.
What we are also likely to see is a contraction in the scale of town centre sites and shop sizes.
Adds Galpin: "What we'll end up seeing is smaller units for retailers, full of people selling quality goods which are unique to their outlet. They will be fulfiling the needs of the local population."
"It's not that retail need no space," explains Lisa Carlson, chief executive of the Canterbury Business Improvement District and chair of the Association of Town and City Management, "it needs less space.
"The reason why we visit towns is not going to be primarily transactional any more. It will be, to use a buzz word, 'experiential'."
In other words, and as we've frequently heard, we will not just come to town to hit the shops, but to meet friends, go for a drink, a meal and enjoy local culture. And some towns will be better to embrace that than others.
A recent report by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) - a partnership set up to unite local authorities and businesses in a bid to boost the economy - calls for the high street to use culture and the creative sector as key drivers.
It will be deemed ironic by many that town centre cinemas - which once fled to out-of-town sites to expand - are now coming back inside town centre boundaries as key drivers of footfall.
So expect to see restaurants, bars and yes, we're like to see more coffee shops, continuing to flourish.
Diljit Brar is the managing director of Goldex, one of the Costa coffee chains biggest franchisees, operating outlets across the county.
"We could see this coming a good ten years ago," he explains, "when we were butting heads with local councils and they were refusing planning applications for coffee shops or restaurants.
"But retail is dying and leaving.
"It's taken them a long time to realise that, rather than have empty shops, we should get a coffee shop or a restaurant in there. Otherwise the whole high street is going to get taken over by charity shops and bric-a-brac.
"We increase footfall into a high street, we're a positive influence."
But such moves may also go head-to-head with another key theory as to how our high streets will look - and one which is very much a case of killing two proverbial birds with one stone; creating more residential space.
Changes to planning regulations - what are known as permitted development rights - has already seen much office space in town centres transformed into flats without having to get permission from local authorities.
Which is not to suggest shops will suddenly morph into homes.
"I wouldn't want to see to much ground floor space - if any - go to residential," adds Canterbury's Lisa Carlson, "and we'd have to be careful about above ground floor - it has to be done well.
"Housing is needed and there's space [in town centres] that's being underutilised.
"Historically when you think of housing developments you think of Section 106 payments [funds from developers to strengthen the surrounding infrastructure] going towards transport, education and health facilities. Well, in town and city centres, you should have, in theory, some of that, which could make it easier.
"You also then have a captive audience who will be able to shop and go out locally.
"The challenge when introducing more residential, is what about the night-time economy?
"I'm not talking about just clubs, but any time between 5pm to 5am. Cinemas, restaurants, bars. All of it. We have to be in continual dialogue with all users of the city centre – staff, residents and customers.”
Worth noting is that a traditional deterrent for town centre living is the issue of vehicle pollution. Yet, in 20 years time, we're likely to be benefitting from the shift to electric vehicles and, as a result, cleaner air.
That desire to pull us back into town centres - and let's 'park' the inherent issues of car parking charges for a moment - is also likely to see some other familiar faces return.
Adds Graham Galpin of the High Street Task Force: "We should have a GP's surgery, or a minor injuries unit, in the high street."
Lisa Carlson agrees: "We're going to need to go out. Not everything can be done online. And I suspect we'll see more units on the high street used as community spaces , public services, the Department for Work and Pensions, more orthodontists and GP surgeries and leisure, alongside retail and hospitality."
The transition towards a new look for our high streets is already well under way - faster in some places than others. But it is happening.
There will be some, inevitable, bumps in the road ahead, and we, collectively, need to change our perception of what the high street will offer. But, if all goes to plan, the new look high street could become more popular, and more enjoyable, than ever before. Just probably with fewer shopping bags to cart home.
It just may take time and, most importantly, will need you to engage once again. Whether it can achieve that is the million dollar question.
Adds Graham Galpin: "People expect everything to go right - but when you're trying out new things, some will fall flat on their face.
"It's all new territory."