In this passage –Sales on the high street suffered their worst ever fall last month, adding to evidence that the UK is heading into recession and prompting renewed calls for an urgent cut in interest rates (High street sales plunge 3.9%, guardian.co.uk, July 24, 2008) – what does "high Street" mean?
Here, "high street sales" means retail sales or sales in shops in general.
High street is British English. It refers to the main street of a city where the biggest shops and businesses are. It's similar to what Americans call "downtown" or what we call CBD in Beijing. In Beijing, the high street or downtown used to be Wangfujing. It still is, but seems to be giving way to areas round Dabeiyao, the CBD (Central Business District). Some locals, by the way, do interpret the new catchword of CBD as China, Beijing, Dabeiyao, though more in jest than by mistake.
In quite a few phrases and idioms, the adjective "high" is coupled with a noun to differentiate the noun from the ordinary. High wind, for example, means strong wind. High society, on the other hand, refers to people of the highest social class. High finance, in turn, involves large sums of money. If you're in high spirits, you're having lots of fun. If somebody has a high opinion of you, they approve of you. During the high season, businesses thrive. If you lead a high life, you travel, wine and dine, party all the time. And if you wear high heels, well, walk, or wobble, but don't run.
And so on and so forth. Anyways, "high street" means the bustling business area. However, it might be worth noting that "high street sales" means sales on the street in general, not just on the "high streets" but also the smallish alleys near you. High street sales are simply retail.
Here are a few random media examples of "high-something" (explanations in brackets are mine):
1. high street (major) banks:
Smaller banks are outstripping high street banks by offering better interest rates and superior customer service, reveals an investigation by Which? Money.
In its annual current account survey Which? found consumers could earn up to 85 per cent more interest if they switched from HSBC, Barclays, Natwest or Lloyds TSB to a smaller bank such as Cahoot.
The report found most accounts offered by the big four banks pay 0.1 per cent interest, equating to 0.40p a year with £500 in your account each month.
- Smaller banks faring better than the high street, moneymarketing.co.uk, July 23, 2008.
2. high-class (expensive) restaurant:
By "expense," Rogers means place how much he spent on the legislator on his financial filing report. If a lobbyist spends more than $50 on a lawmaker in one day, by law the lawmaker's name must be on the report. Less than $50 and the lobbyist only has to list the amount spent, the day it was spent and what it was spent on, like a meal or "entertainment."
Rogers is blunt about how he works -- he tries not to spend more than $50 a day on a legislator. "We don't want to be in the media (for giving gifts) as much as the legislators" don't want to be in the media for accepting them.
Accordingly, "Most of my expenses are breakfasts and lunches. You can really get into some money for dinners" at a high-class restaurant. Rogers lists one legislative meal at only $2.84, while an "entertainment" was $48, just $2 short of the naming level.
- Lobbyist thrives on entertaining lawmakers, Deseret News (Salt Lake City), July 17, 2008.
3. high-ranking (high-positioned) officials:
William Burns, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, will join other high-ranking officials from world's major powers at a meeting this Saturday with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
Burns, the third-highest ranking US diplomat, will for the first time attend Group 5+1 talks with the Iranian envoy in Switzerland aimed at persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment activities.
- High Ranking US Diplomat to Meet Iran's Nuclear Negotiator, uskowioniran.blogspot.com, July 16, 2008.